Dwane Casey guided the Raptors to a franchise-record 59 wins this season.
They still fired him.
There are multiple plausible explanations: Toronto stumbled annually in the playoffs, including getting swept by LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the second round the last two years. With key players – Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas – locked into expensive multi-year contracts, the Raptors’ best shot at a shakeup was firing the coach. Raptors president Masai inherited, rather than hired, Casey in the first place.
Here’s another potential cause.
Casey sought a two-year contract extension in an effort to maintain job security, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports.
The person requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the decision.
Casey’s wish may have forced Ujiri’s hand ahead of Friday’s decision.
Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun:
There’s a belief within the NBA that coaches on the final year of their contract create too much instability. It’s seen as a signal that management doesn’t truly back the coach, which invites players to walk all over him. Teams, as the logic goes, should either extend the coach’s contract or fire him before it reaches that point. I think that’s an overstated claim, a way for coaches to secure more money either through a longer contract or severance pay. But many people buy into the thinking.
Maybe Ujiri would have given Casey another year to prove himself but then decided rejecting an extension would cause turmoil (in a way that merely not offering an extension wouldn’t have). Ujiri – whether or not his denial is accurate – clearly didn’t want to extend Casey’s contract.
So, that left firing the coach.
No matter what exactly happened, if just asking for an extension contributed to Casey getting fired, he was already on thin ice.