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The most successful coach in Raptors franchise history didn’t stay unemployed for long. Dwane Casey, who served as Toronto’s head coach for each of the past seven seasons before his firing in May following an early playoff exit, signed a five-year deal with the Detroit Pistons, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The 61-year-old Casey will become the 36th head coach in Pistons franchise history. He helped lead the Raptors to five consecutive playoff appearances—winning division titles in each of the past four seasons—highlighted by a berth in the 2016 Conference Finals, which the team lost in six games to the eventual NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
The top-seeded Raptors were swept in the second round of the 2018 NBA playoffs by the Cavaliers—who have defeated Toronto in three consecutive postseasons—setting up the shocking ousting of Casey.
A finalist for the 2018 NBA Coach of the Year—which will be announced later this month with Boston’s Brad Stevens and Utah’s Quinn Snyder also up for the award—Casey won a franchise-best 59 games this year—finishing the season with a better record than the 2018 NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
Casey has the challenge of utilizing big men Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin together in a league that has gone small. Drummond is one of the league’s most dominant centers, while Griffin is one of the top athletic talents in the NBA when healthy. Griffin, who Detroit traded for last season and is under contract through 2022, has struggled to stay on the court throughout his career. His health could determine the success of the Pistons—and ultimately Casey’s coaching tenure in Detroit.
Taking over for Stan Van Gundy, who made one playoff appearance (2016) in four seasons with Detroit, Casey is expected to bring the Pistons to the playoffs immediately.
Casey gave high praise to Drummond, Griffin and Reggie Jackson, the team’s three best players, when he made an appearance on ESPN's The Jump on Friday.
“(Griffin's) ability, his IQ are off the charts. I’ll let you know when I coach him down the road,” Casey said. “You got Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, so you've got some good pieces there in Detroit.”
Pistons senior adviser Ed Stefanski, who was hired in May and will run the team’s basketball operations, worked with Casey in Toronto from 2011-13 and helped lure the head coach to Detroit.