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Breakfast with Dwane Casey

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By Paul Fitzgerald - Raptors Announce $11.25 Million Deal to Keep Casey as Head Coach

Breakfast is one of my favorite meals. It’s even better when you get to sit down and enjoy it with a celebrity.

This past weekend it was all about good food and great chatter with Dwane Casey, the popular and outgoing head coach of the Toronto Raptors.

My early morning invite was taken care of through Executive Sports Co, a global ticket company based in Toronto, ON and Burlington, ON. The owner is Kyle Gaspari, who founded the company five years ago. They have a superb reputation as a leading ticket company all around the world and they host many notable events: Raptors games, Leafs games, Jays games, the Montreal Grand Prix, the Masters, the British Open, The Super Bowl, and any concert or major event you could imagine.

It's easy to see why on May 6th, 2014, the Toronto Raptors announced that they will pay Casey $11.25 million over the course of his new deal, with the Raptors holding a team option on the third and final year.

Casey is warm, humble, well-spoken, and you know right off the bat he’s a true leader in every sense, and one in tune of everything. He knows the pulse of the NBA like no other.

He was candid on the kinds of new players he now wants to recruit to the team.

“I want leaders; I want players who are committed and who are a part of a team and who want to be a part of our club for a long time,” he said while scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, fruits and juice were being served up at the Air Canada Club Lounge, which overlooks courtside at the Air Canada Centre (ACC).

Having heard the coach speak on a number of occasions, Gaspari admires his leadership in getting the Toronto club to the playoffs this year. “From day one last summer Dwane has done an excellent job both on-and-off the court, so it’s no surprise that he was rewarded with such a lucrative contract,” said Gaspari.

Editorial Note: The following information below has been provided courtesy of the Globe and Mail and The Toronto Sun (May 6, 7, 8, 2014).

Casey was fresh off a stint as a highly regarded defensive assistant for the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks when Bryan Colangelo hired him to take the Raptors' reins before the 2011-12 season, and soon learned that building a winner was a bit more difficult without versatile veteran stars like Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. After compiling a 57-91 record and making consecutive lottery trips in his first two years at the helm, Casey entered the 2013-14 season with his future in Toronto far from secure, especially after Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke reassigned Colangelo, the exec who hired Casey, and hired 2012-13 Executive of the Year Ujiri away from the Denver Nuggets to take over the Raps' rebuilding effort.

The coach's odds didn't look any better after Toronto stumbled to start the season, losing 12 of their first 18 games, before Ujiri made what some considered to be a bottoming-out move, trading small forward Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings along with backup bigs Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray in exchange for a quartet of reserves: point guard Greivis Vasquez, power forward Patrick Patterson, swingman John Salmons and forward/center Chuck Hayes. But the offensive possessions previously used by Gay redistributed to the likes of point guard Kyle Lowry and shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, Lowry and Vasquez unlocking pick-and-roll chemistry with athletic big men Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas, and more minutes at the three spot made available for rising sophomore 3-and-D wing Terrence Ross, Toronto began to take off.

The Raptors posted an Eastern Conference-best 42-22 mark after the trade, working as a top-10 team in both points scored and allowed per possession. DeRozan became the team's leading scorer and earned his first All-Star berth. Lowry probably should have joined him, but didn't, which actually helped him earn more recognition as one of the league's most underrated two-way performers. Valanciunas and Johnson became consistent double-double threats whose relentless work on defense, in setting screens and in crashing the glass endeared them to the Air Canada Centre faithful and opened doors for the Raptors' emerging scorers.

Instead of finding themselves fighting for ping-pong balls in the basement of the Eastern Conference, the Raptors found themselves, with Casey earning praise for his work in getting the best out of his young charges, especially All-Star DeRozan and free-agent-to-be Lowry. A fair amount of that praise came from the Raps themselves, according to CBSSports.com's James Herbert, reporting from the Raptors' season-ending media availability on Monday:

“One thing I respect about coach Casey, man, he's been consistent,” DeRozan said. “He's been the same Dwane Casey since he's been here. Preached the same thing, told us to stick with the same principles and they'll work. We did it, and everything he said came together like he said it would.”

“He got us together,” point guard Greivis Vasquez said. “You gotta have him a lot of credit. He's gotta be back after the year that he has done.”

“I just feel like we've been in it together,” Johnson said. “We've been here, we've been through the ups and downs…we definitely grinded it out to get to where we are now. It's just been an amazing journey, and hopefully we can keep working, keep continuing to get better.”

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