Dwane Casey was named NBA coach of the year Monday after being fired by Toronto and then recently hired by Detroit. However, the former UK player/assistant coach was as classy as ever with his comments after winning the award.
Q. I know it’s really humbling when Toronto comes in and says we have to relieve you of your position. I think there were greater things to come for you. I’ve mentioned to you probably about a half dozen times on my show, when you look forward in your new position with a different team, different franchise, what keys do you believe will it take to get you and your team to the next level?
DWANE CASEY: Well, one is health, because Stan Van Gundy did a heck of a job building a solid foundation there. They’ve got a solid team, but their biggest nemesis has been their health. Blake Griffin has been in and out with injuries. Reggie Jackson missed, I don’t know how many games with injuries. So just keeping everybody healthy whether it’s through training, backing off at certain times, I don’t know what it is. But we’ve got to figure it out to make sure we keep everybody healthy, because they have a lot of good pieces there with Blake and Andre [Drummond], Reggie, Stanley Johnson, and again, you talk about coming out of the east, you’ve got to go through — I don’t care what anybody says, at the end of the day, you’ve got to go through 23 [LeBron James]. You’ve got to have some matchups that can stay in front of him and give him some resistance, and we have a couple of guys that can do that in Stanley and also Blake Griffin.
So that’s the exciting part about it. The most important thing I still say is health. And again, get our offense going a little bit because they were solid defensively. I think they were ninth or 10th. But just to get a little bit more flow in the offensive game.
Q. What excites you? You just kind of touched on some of the things that you needed to do differently with this Pistons team, but what excites you about this opportunity? Do you think this will be different also than the time in Toronto?
DWANE CASEY: Well, again, I look back at the days starting in Toronto. We started out 30th in the league. I didn’t think we could go any further defensively. That was one of the charges that Bryan Colangelo gave me is to make sure we brought the defense back. We did that with far less talent at that time, because DeMar DeRozan was a young kid at that time. Now we start with Blake Griffin, Andre, they’ve been in the league a little bit further. So starting out with a more veteran base in Detroit. So that’s the exciting part about it.
I’m excited to get with them. I met with the guys last week, they’re already working. We’ve got coaches on the ground, most of them are here in L.A. working. That is the fun part, the exciting part. Again, once you get fired, it’s not a good feeling when someone, after you have a franchise record [in wins] and then you still get let go, that’s the uneasy part. Say, okay, something must be wrong with me.
But the opportunity in Detroit has given me more enthusiasm, and I’m excited to get going again. Again, a lot of it goes with Tom Gores, the owner, he’s exciting and excited to get another chance in Detroit.
Q. Were there any regrets that you feel like you left in Toronto?
DWANE CASEY: Well, yeah, you always — a lot of coaches have regrets. Not beating Cleveland is one of my regrets. We got better every year. Like I said, we went from 30th to fifth defensively, number two offensively. Everybody, you know talks about that. But, again, it’s the overall growth of the program with the same core guys. We didn’t sign a lot of free agents. We got Serge Ibaka, and DeMarre Carroll, I think.
But a lot of the same core guys have been there and they grew. That’s a regret you have that we made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, but we couldn’t get over the hump to get to The Finals to try to win a championship. So that’s always a regret.
But, again, I can still hold my head high from what we had and what we grew from and nobody can ever take that away.
Q. Is there a message that you’d like to send to Toronto fans?
DWANE CASEY: No, again, there is no message. Again, we’ll see each other again, like I told the fans. It’s a great city. The ownership is solid with Larry Tanenbaum and George Cope, but, again, it’s their prerogative not to have me there. I have no regrets. I’m excited about the new journey in Detroit with the group we have there. So can’t look in the rear view mirror. Winston Churchill said success is measured by failure, failure, and then come back with enthusiasm, and that’s what I’ve done.
So supposedly they equate that with failure, so that’s their choice, their decision, and I wish them nothing but the best. Especially the players, because I love each one of them and spent a lot of hours with them. DeMar DeRozan, watched him grow up. Four-time All-Star from where he was. Kyle Lowry, same thing, Olympians. So a lot of growth in that program. So it’s up to the next coach there to take that next step.