Dwane Casey’s run with the Toronto Raptors is over after seven seasons, the team announced Friday.
During an afternoon news conference, Raptors president Masai Ujiri showed some emotion in explaining just how difficult the decision was for him.
“What an unbelievable human being,” Ujiri said of Casey, before calling the decision, “the hardest thing I’ve done in my life.”
“I’ve never met anybody that classy in my life,” Ujiri added.
In a statement announcing Casey’s release earlier in the day, Ujiri said:
“After careful consideration, I have decided this is a very difficult but necessary step the franchise must take. As a team, we are constantly trying to grow and improve in order to get to the next level. We celebrate everything Dwane has done for the organization, we thank him, and we wish him nothing but the best in future. He was instrumental in creating the identity and culture of who we are as a team, and we are so proud of that.”
The Raptors won a franchise-record 59 games this season to earn the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but a sweep by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round had Casey rumored to be on the hot seat. The 61-year-old has led the Raptors to the playoffs each of the past five seasons, though the repeated postseason failures have begun adding up.
The Raptors battled past the Washington Wizards in six games in the first round, setting up a matchup with LeBron James’ Cavaliers for the third consecutive postseason. The result was more of the same, as the sweep marked the second consecutive year the Cavs took four straight from the Raptors without losing in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Toronto won two games in losing to Cleveland in the conference finals in 2016.
Casey leaves as the winningest coach in franchise history, with the team going 320-238 under his watch.
Casey was named Coach of the Year by his peers in the National Basketball Coaches Association on Wednesday.
—Field Level Media