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Ulmer: Raptors To Develop Defensive Identity Under Casey

Related: Raptors Draft Central 2011 | Raptors Decline Option On Triano | Q & A With Casey
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June 21, 2011
Mike Ulmer - raptors.com

If Dwane Casey has his way, and it would be perilous to think he will not, Air Canada Centre will soon be a No-Fly zone for opposing teams.

No more highlight dunks. No more players fattening their statistics at the end of lopsided wins.

What has been a runway is to be turned into an alley.

The 54-year-old Casey arrives in Toronto after a three-year-stint in Dallas where the Mavs evolved from a disappointing team that paid minimal attention to defence to a championship club that did.

“There is a chance for us to focus on building up a better defensive program,” said Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo. “Dwane obviously comes with great credentials in that area.”

Casey wasted little time in putting defence first.

“What I want to do is help this team develop an NBA defensive identity,” he said.

“Establishing that culture of hard work is very, very important. One thing we want to do is trust players offensively but the way you earn that is on the defensive end. That’s where it starts."

The Raptors were 30th in the league in defensive efficiency last season, surrendering 110 points per 100 possessions to finish last in that category for a second straight campaign.

Casey has worked in the NBA for 16 of the last 17 seasons either as a head coach, associate coach or assistant coach.

He got his first NBA head coaching job with the Minnesota Timberwolves but was fired after accruing a 53-69 mark from 2005-2007. He also worked as an assistant with the Seattle Supersonics for 11 seasons and rose to the rank of associate coach. In all, he has worked for George Karl, Paul Westphal and Nate McMillan. A graduate of the University of Kentucky, he won a national title with the Wildcats in 1978.

“Defensively, I am going to be a hands-on, control freak so to speak. Offensively I’m going to trust and give them a break regardless. The players will know how important defence is,” he said.

“The only thing I can control is playing time. Our players will know that if they don’t do their job defensively, their playing time will involve sitting next to me. I want to make playing defence fun because it’s something we are going to do in some shape, fashion or form every day.”

There can be no question about Casey’s resume. He has demanded and got better defence from Jason Terry, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Reggie Evans and Kevin Garnett. Out of the playoffs for three years, the Raptors will be obliged to give him what he wants.

“I am passionate about what I do,” he said. “I do not go out of my way to embarrass players but I wear my feelings on my shirtsleeves. I am a hard worker. There won’t be a coach on our staff who will be outworked by someone from another team.”

Casey said he had not yet decided whether former coach Jay Triano will be on his staff.