After yet another early playoff exit at the hands of LeBron James, the Toronto Raptors controversially relieved Dwane Casey of his head coaching responsibilities.
The former Kentucky Wildcat player and assistant coach led the Raptors to a franchise-record 59 victories during the regular season and ran away with the No. 1 seed in the East. It was a performance worthy of the National Basketball Coaches Association’s coach of the year award, an honor he won just two days before being fired.
Now, there’s a bit more to the story.
According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, the former Wildcat asked for a two-year contract extension after the season, which may have led Raptors team president Masai Ujiri to make the ultimate decision to cut ties with Casey.
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 said Raptors president Ujiri denied reports of any contract extension request.
Ujiri also says he wanted to give Casey chance to address media. Adds report of Casey requesting extension wasn’t accurate. Says agent Warren LeGarie and him are in constant discussion. Nothing recent.
— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) May 11, 2018
If the report of Casey asking for an extension turns out to be true, it’s a bit of a questionable move for him. He just signed a three-year, $18 million contract extension two years ago to lock him up through the 2018-19 season. Despite another disappointing postseason run for the Raptors, Casey had one more season left on his contract to capitalize on a solid roster foundation, which could have led to an even longer tenure with the team. With few key draft/trade/free agent decisions this offseason, along with a potential move for LeBron to the West, there was a legitimate shot for an ECF/Finals run for Toronto.
Now a free-agent, there are rumors the Orlando Magic and the Milwaukee Bucks are interested in Casey to fill their head coaching vacancies, though nothing significant has been reported as of yet. That being said, it’s no secret the former Cat won’t be unemployed for long.