TORONTO (Reuters) - The Toronto Raptors fired head coach Sam Mitchell Wednesday, a day after the team suffered one of their biggest defeats.
Assistant Jay Triano, formerly in charge of Canada’s national team, was appointed interim coach and, according to Raptors President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo, is expected to remain in the role through the end of the season.
The decision came less than 24 hours after the Raptors were routed 132-93 by the Denver Nuggets, their fifth worst defeat.
It was also the fourth loss in six games for the Raptors (8-9), who have slipped to eighth in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s safe to say after the debacle we all witnessed last night, a 39-point loss, not to mention several other instances ... you come to a point where you realize some of the things you want to see out there aren’t taking place,” Colangelo told reporters during a conference call.
“It was difficult decision ... at this point being 8-9 we felt it was time to move forward with a coaching change.”
In four-plus seasons in Toronto, Mitchell posted a record of 156-189, earning NBA coach of the year in 2006-07 after guiding the Raptors to the Atlantic Division title and back into the playoffs for the first time in five years.
Mitchell was immediately rewarded with a four-year, $12 million contract but has paid the price after an inconsistent start to the current campaign.
With Chris Bosh having established himself as one of the NBA’s top talents and the off-season acquisition of six-times All-Star center Jermaine O‘Neal, the Raptors were expecting to challenge for the conference crown.
”When you have tough games and expectations are high, you have to meet those expectations or you can be subject to something like this happening,“ Mitchell told TSN, Canada’s all sports network. ”It’s not about being shocked or not shocked.
”It’s unfortunate that it happened but these things do happen.
”I don’t want to get into with what’s fair and what’s not fair because I learned along time ago the world is not fair, life is not always fair.
“But I have a lot to be thankful for. They gave me an opportunity to have a career in coaching, something I always wanted to do after playing.”
Mitchell becomes the third coaching casualty of the season after P.J. Carlesimo of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Eddie Jordan of the Washington Wizards.
Writing by Steve Keating; Editing by Tony Jimenez and Peter Rutherford