Before the start of training camp, Jay Satur of raptors.com sat down with the new members of the Raptors' coaching staff to discuss an unusual start to the 2011-12 season and their plans for getting started in Toronto. First up is a two-part interview with head coach Dwane Casey, with a focus on a challenging summer. Check out part two of that discussion here...
Jay Satur: It's hard to believe that it's been over five months since we first saw you introduced here in Toronto. How are you settling into the city and enjoying your experience so far?
Dwane Casey: It's been tough because of the lockout. It really slowed our progress, took away our summer league and our development with our young players so that was kind of the only detriment of going through the summer. But I'm excited to be here. It seems like yesterday when that press conference was going on and everybody's champing at the bit to get started. By not having summer league or having the "normal" training camp schedule, I haven't had the chance to be here as much because I went to Lithuania to watch our players play over in the European Championships, I was over there for a couple of weeks. So it was a busy summer yet a boring summer from a "getting ready for the season" standpoint.
JS: What's your first priority now that you're able to contact your players?
DC: Just get our guys under contract into Toronto as quickly as possible so we can start working with them. We were ready to go as soon as they said "go". Get the guys here. Get the physicals done. Make sure we start working with them one-on-one. We can't do any official practices or anything like that, but we can get our hands on them and for me that's the best way for me to get to know players is on the court. You can talk on the phone, you can sit down and talk all you want, but you really don't get to know your own players until you're on the court with them.
JS: Coming into a new situation, that feeling must be even greater.
DC: No question. That's why I want to do it. What I would have been doing, if this had been a normal summer, would be go to their hometowns, where they normally work out, meet their families, meet their friends and wives or whatever the situation is and get to know them on that personal basis. I'm a firm believer in that because you get a feel for what’s important to a guy when you meet them in their home surroundings.
JS: Were there advantages to having a lot of free time with a new organization?
DC: I've probably watched not all 82 (games) from last year, but probably close to 75. But I've watched all the Eastern Conference games because being in the Western Conference, you're not as familiar with the Eastern Conference as you probably would be. I've watched the entire training camp, so when a guy comes and says "well, we did this last year," I can definitely tell them "no, you didn't. I don't know what happened in practice every day, but this is what I saw in training camp and this is what I saw in your 82-game schedule."
It gave me that time -- I would have made time otherwise -- but I've kind of gone slowly and taken notes. Gotten specific about what guys can do and can't do. That's been a positive advantage.
JS: You've also brought in some new names to join your coaching staff here. Can you talk a little bit about the decision-making process with assembling this group?
DC: What I wanted to do is get some of the best teachers because we do have a young team. I'm a firm believer you don't go out and get friends. You want to get someone you're familiar with and that you trust, but not your friends and I did that. I observed Johnny Davis from afar; he coached on my staff in Minnesota and I watched him teach. He's one of the best teachers of young men in the game. He's got championship pedigree from his Portland days, so I wanted guys to draw from a former player and starting point guard.
Tommy Sterner is a guy that I worked with for two years in Dallas, so that was a ringing endorsement for me. He didn't have to send a reference or anything like that. But he's been with a championship organization in Orlando when they went to the Finals in '95 and worked with some good coaches there and great players like Shaq and Penny when they were young. So those are all positives as far things Tommy brings to the table. He’s a very hard worker, very technically savvy as far as video systems and what we can do with video. We want to be cutting edge as far as watching games and how we present game edits, so he's going to be a really big plus for us from that standpoint.
Scott Roth I've known even when he was a player. I also wanted another former player that could work with big guys and knew the players here. Not so close to them -- familiarity sometimes breeds contempt -- but he's been here long enough that he knows the players, the organization, the personalities and what makes them tick, so that was important. He's a good teacher also.
I've known Micah Nori over the years and his knowledge of the league is second to none. He has respect around the league for knowing the league. His contribution will be helping us with game preparation, which is probably one of my top priorities as far as going into a game, leaving no stone unturned in terms of preparing for a team. I pride myself in knowing every play that another team is going to run and I want our staff to be able to not have to look at notes when the (opposing) coach is holding up whatever the call is. We have got to know that and we will know that and Micah's a big contributor to that with his information on the league.
I've known Eric also for many years from back in Seattle when he was working with Gary Payton, who I coached. Watching him first hand working with Gary, teaching him and physically sweating with him, that was huge for me as far as keeping Eric here. He knew the players and he has a great rapport. Again, not so close that he can't hold a guy accountable but still close enough that he has a close relationship with a player.