First let me start with the news that Phil Jasner is reporting.
Dwane Casey, who has just completed his first season as an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks, has had a second interview for the 76ers’ vacant coaching job, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Exactly when or where the second session with Sixers president/general manager Ed Stefanski took place remains unclear. The first meting came last week in Santa Monica, Ca. while Stefanski was in the area scouting a group of college players for the upcoming NBA draft. – Phil Jasner
This is the first report of a second interview for anyone and for many it probably comes as a bit of a surprise. Is it a signal Ed Stefanski and crew has really taken a liking to Casey and he is now the front runner? One can only speculate but it certainly isn’t a stretch.
Dwane Casey: Summary
So I am going to break this down two ways. The quick and dirty synopsis of what I found about Dwane Casey and below I will give those how want more depth some of the stuff I actually found about him to read at your leisure. I found some ESPN analysts’ opinions as well as Timberwolves fans’ opinions in Casey.
Casey is currently an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks (1st year). Prior to that he was hired as the head coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves at the start of the 2005 NBA season. The team finished with a 33-49 record. Not really good but not unexpected either considering the roster which was completely shook up 40 games into the season whey they traded Wally Szczerbiak who was actually playing quite well next to KG. Worth noting as bad as that team was they were still 9th in defensive rating that season under Casey who is known for being a strong defensive coach.
The following season Casey only lasted 40 games. He was promptly fired with a 20-20 record after the Wolves lost 4 straight games by large margins (more on this below). Worth noting, going into the ’06-’07 season the Timberwolves were expected to be pretty bad. Certainly not a playoff team and vying for a good lottery spot. At the time Casey was fired he had the Wolves in the 8th playoff spot and again in the top 10 in defense. Casey was fired on January 23rd. The Wolves actually started the month 7-1 with a 20-16 record and overachieving dramatically. Two of the 4 straight loses could directly be attributed to a punch KG threw and ejection in one game and being suspended the following game. Needless to say his firing wasn’t all what it seemed. Not to mention he was completely undermined by the front office who dictated who his lead assistant was by forcing Casey choice out for Randy Wittman, his successor. Word is when that decision came down it was just a matter of time before Casey got the axe. It was clear ownership had started the wheels in another direction before Casey was even out the door.
Prior to that debacle Casey was an assistant coach under George Karl and Nate McMillan in Seattle for 11 seasons (starting in 1994) which means he was apart of that 1996 NBA Finals team.
Casey coached for 5 seasons in Japan with noted basketball legend Pete Newell leading the National team to their first World Championship appareance in 31 years. Casey started his coaching career as an assistant to Eddie Sutton at Kentucky (where he also played) and under Clem Haskins at Western Kentucky.
- Defensive focused coach who was moderately successful as a head coach improving this area
- Loves the game of basketball and is student of the game always looking to learn and improve his coaching ability.
- Has a diverse coaching background from high level college basketball, NBA and overseas.
- Said to be a disciplinarian one who won’t let players run over him but not an authoritarian who over coaches and doesn’t accept thoughtful input from key players, assistant coaches or advanced scouts and statisticians.
- Good at developing players and is fantastic with his game preparation and maximizing practice time.
- According to Dean Oliver who was with the Supersonics while Casey was an assistant, Dwane does use advanced statistical analysis as part of his coaching toolbox.
- Inexperienced as a head coach with only a year and half under his belt with a bad team. But for an assistant it’s actually more than most.
- Said to have weird/questionable rotations and substitution patterns and well as still learning/lacking with his in-game management and adjustments such as when to call timeouts and what is executed out of timeouts.
- Perceived to be laid back (but some also say he is intense enough to compliment that)
- Would seriously need to paired with a strong offensive lead assistant.
Summing It Up
Good up and coming coach who unjustly got a bad reputation in Minnesota coaching one star surrounded by a bunch of misfits. Just needs an opportunity with a club that has a decent roster and managment that has a clue. Has his flaws but isn’t egotisical so he realizes and acknowledges them in order to get better. Jury is still out whether he is best suited as an assistant coach because of his strong prepatory and player development skills or can legitimately a good head coach (can excel in game with rotations and tactical adjustments). But the belief by some people is that he can take mediocre roster and overachieve.
I am in agreement with something Pete said to me earlier today. While my preference is still Tom Thibodeau I will give whoever the coach is a fair chance.
Dwane Casey: More Depth
John Hollinger was a big Casey proponent and was completely dumbfounded when he was fired by Kevin McHale and fools that run that organization.
Here is the article from Hollinger after Dwane Casey was fired. (my bolding for emphasis of key points)
Can anyone remember the last time a coach took a team that was expected to be lottery-bound, had them at .500 and in line for a playoff spot at the halfway point of the season in a very tough conference, and got fired anyway?
I can’t, which makes Dwane Casey’s dismissal by the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday one of the season’s more puzzling events.
Minnesota hired the guy only a year and a half ago, and the same exec who hired him then — team president Kevin McHale — was the one wielding the hatchet today.
Somebody, anybody, please tell me what this guy did wrong.
Casey kept the Wolves in the top half of the league in Defensive Efficiency all season despite basically having only three big men in his rotation — Kevin Garnett, the sporadically motivated Mark Blount and rookie Craig Smith, a second-round draft pick.
You can’t critique Casey’s late-game strategy either: He more than held his own in close games, winning three straight overtime contests earlier this month.
But apparently losing four games in a row — two of which can directly be pinned on Garnett’s ejection against Detroit last Friday and subsequent one-game suspension — was too much for Minnesota’s brass to bear. No matter that the Wolves were 7-5 in January, or that they surprisingly held the West’s No. 8 seed heading into Monday’s games.
Apparently Minnesota management thinks this is still 2003-04 and they’re gunning for the Western Conference title. This would be an absurd notion with almost any other franchise, but the Timberwolves are perhaps the league’s most delusional franchise.
From the lofty contract extensions they’ve handed out to even their most mediocre players, to the way they’ve axed both Flip Saunders (in February 2005) and now Casey rather than admitting the serial imperfections of the roster, to their current refusal to trade Garnett before his value declines, Minnesota’s front office has existed in an alternate state of reality for some time now.
In the early hours after McHale’s move, we’re still hunting down all the skeletons associated with Casey’s firing, but one thing is for certain: There’s a good coach walking around today without a job, and he deserved better.
Let’s hope Casey lands on his feet with one of the many openings that are expected this summer. And in the meantime, let’s hope the Timberwolves can start acting sensible some time before the end of the decade. – John Hollinger
Here is John Hollinger again before the 2007-2008 season (season after Casey was fired) doing his preseason forecast (cut down and abbreviated with just the Dwane Casey antedotes)
A bigger factor, however, was head coach Dwane Casey, who had his undersized team competing far more aptly than anyone had thought possible. To the shock of many, he kept the Wolves in the top half of the league in defensive efficiency through the first half of the season and had Minnesota at 20-16 through 36 games.
While that record was several games better than anyone who covers the league expected, it apparently wasn’t better than the team’s management expected. And when the Timberwolves hit a four-game losing streak that dropped them to 20-20 on Jan. 23, the Wolves made the unbelievable decision to fire Casey — apparently believing their team was capable of much better despite all evidence pointing to the contrary.
My favorite quote was Kevin McHale’s complaint that, “We started the season with certain goals and expectations that have not been met.” What pray tell, were the expectations? Casey had the team in the playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the West on the day he was fired, something which would have won him coach of the year had he kept it up. But McHale somehow thought his trash heap of undesirable contracts was capable of more. In fact, owner Glen Taylor reportedly told Casey that the team was capable of making it to the Western Conference finals. (This might technically be true, but I couldn’t verify if the Hungarian Basketball Association had split into conferences.)
“We don’t want to be the eighth seed,” McHale said when he fired Casey, and man, did he ever get his wish. Newly instated coach Randy Wittman went 12-30 the rest of the way as Minnesota finished well out of the money. The defense that thrived under Casey almost immediately went in the tank, as the Wolves were one of the league’s bottom three teams in defensive efficiency over the final 42 games.
Moreover, after McHale complained about a lack of consistency in Casey’s tenure, the team failed to win consecutive games after the All-Star break under Wittman. All told, this had to be the most idiotic coaching switch of the past decade. – John Hollinger
Chris Sheridan’s take on Casey’s dismissal from the Wolves:
Today’s dismissal of Dwane Casey appears to me to be a case of “We’d better fire him now while it’s still convenient, because it might not be easier to fire him down the road.”
The Wolves’ current four-game losing streak gave owner Glen Taylor just enough cover to try to justify the change, but this firing had been coming ever since management forced Casey to get rid of trusted assistant Johnny Davis last summer in order to clear the way for Randy Wittman as the ownership-chosen lead assistant. – Chris Sheridan
Dwane Casey Interview with Minneapolis Star-Tribune writer Steve Aschburner from January 19, 2007 (right before he was fired) that was sent to me via email.
Dwane Casey was uncomfortable from the start with an interview that would focus solely on him. The Timberwolves had opened 2007 with four consecutive victories, on the way to a 7-1 mark through the first half of January, and the head coach felt a little awkward being placed front and center during the hot streak, lest someone think he was taking credit for all the happy outcomes. Then it was explained to Casey, midway through his second season at the Wolves’ helm, that the Q&A assignment was conceived two weeks earlier. Back when his job, at least to outsiders, was hanging by a slender thread. Back when the Wolves fell behind by 20 points at Charlotte and you’d swear you could almost hear the folding chairs being set up for a dismissal news conference. Oddly, that reassured the coach, who shoulders blame more readily than he takes credit. Casey talked about that trait and others related to his job as Wolves coach over a lunch with Star Tribune NBA writer Steve Aschburner:
Q. One difference in you this season is, you’re a married coach rather than engaged. How has your wife, Brenda, a sports marketing executive, handled the ups and downs?
A. It’s really no different from before. The basketball’s still the same. The focus still is the same. Same time watching tapes. Brenda’s been good – she’s been through it. She understands. She’s a basketball widow. She played basketball, so she knows the game, she knows the time commitment that goes into it. Which makes it a lot easier.
Q. Does she attend the games?
A. When she’s in town. She travels a lot. To Chicago – Brian Urlacher is one of her clients, she does his marketing. Also Ben Wallace.
Q. You give the impression that you’re unflappable. People never see you sweat.
A. Oh no! It’s just that the media part of it doesn’t bother me. Where I feel the lows is when I haven’t done a good job of preparing the team or couldn’t get things done offensively or defensively. When things are not clicking, I take that on myself. More than media coverage or [job] speculation or anything. Really, going through what I went through at Kentucky – that [recruiting] investigation was [publicized 17 years ago] worldwide – really hardened me as far as coverage or negativity. Whatever happens that way, I can’t control it.
Q. It’s fashionable in sports to say, if you win, the players won. If you lost, either the other team won or the coach lost.
A. That’s the age-old adage. I watched what Coach [Joe B.] Hall went through at Kentucky, what Eddie Sutton went through, Tubby Smith. The high-pressure programs are the same as in the NBA: If you win, you’re supposed to. If you don’t, it’s your fault. When you sign up to be a coach in the NBA, I’m a true believer, that’s what we sign up for. That type of criticism, that non-appreciative [view].
Q. How are you different in this job from a year ago?
A. More confident in what we do. More comfortable. Our core guys, the more time we spend together, the better. Same with our coaching staff. We’re coming up on a year [since the Wolves-Boston trade]. And now you add three more guys to the rotation – Mike [James], Craig [Smith] and Randy [Foye] – it’s an ongoing process. We’re no finished product. By getting this time together, coming up on a year, we’re jelling. You can just see the togetherness coming, the trust, as the season goes on.
Q. You’re more secure in your rotation, which means sitting some guys for days on end.
A. Last year, more than anything else, I was searching to see what guys could do. I didn’t know if A.C. [Anthony Carter] could be that point guard. Or Troy [Hudson] or Marko. That was me searching. Now I’m more defined. It’s more set. Not saying those guys are not valuable – I tell them all the time, `You’re a hangnail away from being in the thick of things’ – and I think Troy, Justin [Reed], Eddie [Griffin], Mark Madsen, those guys have done a good job.
Q. So you like all the things that go into being a head coach, rather than an assistant?
A. I don’t enjoy being in the spotlight. If I could just be in the gym, in the locker room and the office and out there for games, I’d love it. No disrespect to [the media], but I love the basketball duties of coaching. I could sit in the gym and talk Xs and Os all day. I do miss the closeness that you get with the players as an assistant coach. The one-on-one work, spending time with the players in the summer.
Q. Granted, an NBA coach who puts himself front and center can have problems. Then again, players need to know who the boss is. How do you balance that?
A. All I can control is playing time. If a guy’s not doing what he’s supposed to do, then he won’t play. I don’t think this is a sledgehammer league. I don’t think you can just browbeat guys – there are way too many games. You have to have a system in place, the way you want to play, and you work on it. But to do it with whip and chain doesn’t work.
Q. The Twin Cities seems to be a market that loves local connections. Yet you have none. Would you be more embraced if you had a Minnesota background?
A. I haven’t thought about that. I know Minnesotans love Minnesota players and ex-players, which they should. That’s a great thing. But Timberwolves fans want to win. Which I do. Time and winning buys you that time to be embraced. And I think Minnesotans appreciate hard work.
Q. How dicey did it get for you in December? There was one rumor circulating that you were within 48 hours of getting fired.
A. That’s the process of coaching. You know going in, you don’t have a lot of time. You want it done yesterday. Every coach in this league knows the position we’re in. There’s no running from it. Forty-eight hours, huh? You just want to make sure you can get it done in the amount of time you’re given.
Q. Some coaches, as a way of surviving, cater to their best players. Since Kevin Garnett is the key guy here, how do you relate to him?
A. Kevin Garnett stands for winning. He wants to be coached, he wants the right information. If he makes a mistake, he knows it before you tell him. Let’s put it this way: I don’t know a head coach in this league who doesn’t have an open line of communication with his star player. Coaching Kevin, will we have disagreements? Yes. But both of you are about the same thing and that’s winning. I don’t have an ego as far as taking the credit. If Kevin sees something out there that works, let’s look at it. You’ve got to have a give-and-take.
Q. How do you let off steam?
A. I love working out. Going to movies. I think coaches need to make sure they stay physically fit: Work out. Eat right. Get their rest. I try at least to work out.
Q. Was the clamor over a possible Allen Iverson trade a distraction?
A. Actually, we had a stretch of games there where we played well. If it affects your team, yes, you’d rather not go through it. But speculation is part of the business. Fans are going to say what they say. You guys have a job to do to report things.
Q. Last question: Were there any days this season when you were reluctant to buy green bananas?
A. No, no. I don’t think in those terms. I just think, what can I do today to turn it around? If today’s work or tonight’s game doesn’t get it done, they can walk in tomorrow and say, `Hey, time’s up.’ If you worry about what tomorrow is going to bring, you’re not taking care of business today. I’ll always be a coach. Somewhere, whether it’s college, high school, overseas or somewhere. But I promise you I do not sit around and worry about the guillotine. That’s when you die a slow death.
Here are some links to check out if you want more:
- Sixers 4 Guidos interview with the writers at Twolves Blog about Dwane Casey
- The bloggers and fans over at Canis Hoopus help a Bulls fan looking for information about Dwane Casey
- Random article from 2002 about Casey as a talent developer
Well hopefully I provided some insight and more knowledge about the another of the Sixers coaching candidates. If I find anyting else I will post it in the comment section. Let the discussion continue.