Rod Beard offers his thoughts on the Pistons hiring Dwane Casey as their new head coach. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Maybe the first answer was the right answer all along.
Soon after the Pistons parted ways with Stan Van Gundy last month and started their search for a new coach, Dwane Casey became available after the Toronto Raptors let him go. Almost immediately, Casey became one of the hottest names on the coaching market, after he was voted coach of the year by his peers.
On Monday, the Pistons and Casey agreed to terms on a five-year deal to become the next head coach, tasked with making them a perennial playoff team, as he did in his tenure with the Raptors.
The Pistons searched far and wide, casting a wide net of candidates, with Michigan coach John Beilein and Spurs assistant Ime Udoka as finalists and others considered, including Heat assistant Juwan Howard, TNT analyst Kenny Smith, former Bucks coach Jason Kidd and Spurs assistant Becky Hammon.
In the end, they settled on Casey, who is the most experienced of the bunch and is regarded for building relationships with players.
While Casey will have to deal with a ragtag roster of players that notched a 39-43 record last season, he still provides some potential for success.
Here are some thoughts on what Casey brings:
PLAYERS’ COACH: Part of the knock on Van Gundy was his relationship with players and not using some of his younger stars. Casey could look to make inroads with some of the veterans — beginning with Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson — and get the message through in a way that Van Gundy didn’t. Casey is known to be more soft-spoken, a departure from Van Gundy, who was much more vocal and had higher expectations of players and their production. “Blake Griffin is a star in this league. I haven’t coached him. His ability and his IQ are off the charts,” Casey said Friday on ESPN’s “First Take” show. “I’ll let you know once I coach him down the road. You have Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, so you have some good pieces there in Detroit.”
PLAYER DEVELOPMENT: In his seven years with the Raptors, Casey helped in the development of All-Star guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. He’ll have another opportunity with the Pistons’ last three first-round picks, in Luke Kennard, Henry Ellenson and Stanley Johnson. Kennard was good in his rookie season, but he’ll look to take a bigger step forward next year. Johnson is coming up on negotiating his second contract, and the Pistons will have to make a quick decision about whether he’s in their long-term plans. Ellenson still hasn’t reached his potential — and it’s not clear what his potential is, as he didn’t get much playing time under Van Gundy.
THE LEBRON BLOCK: For as well as Casey did with the Raptors, he couldn’t find a way to get around LeBron James and the Cavaliers, getting swept out each of the past two postseasons. There’s no shame in that, as James’ teams have reached the NBA Finals each of the past eight seasons, but the game planning around how to stop James — including letting him get an open look for a last-second shot this year — are big criticisms.
TIME ON HIS SIDE: Casey’s five-year deal signals a commitment to moving in a consistent direction from Pistons owner Tom Gores. There seems to be a win-now mentality with this roster, given the four years remaining for Drummond and Griffin. The Pistons could have broken up the roster and gone in a different direction, cutting payroll and rebuilding, but they’re opting to give this group another shot, with Casey at the helm. He had a 320-238 overall record with the Raptors — a mark that Pistons fans would jump at the opportunity to have in Detroit.
PLAYOFF RECORD: In the last five seasons, the Raptors reached the playoffs, with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016, before losing to the Cavaliers, plus two appearances in the conference semifinals, also falling to the Cavs. In 2014 and ’15, they had first-round exits. The Pistons haven’t had much postseason success, either, with first-round losses to the Cavs in 2016 and the end of the “Goin’ to Work” era, a first-round exit in 2009, also to Cleveland.