TORONTO – Dwane Casey hopes to bring a rugged, NHL-style of defense to his newest job in the NBA.
The Toronto Raptors hired Casey as their coach on Tuesday, nine days after the Dallas assistant helped the Mavericks win the championship.
Casey succeeds Jay Triano, a Canadian who became a consultant after the Raptors finished 22-60. Casey was the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves from June 2005 to January 2007, compiling a 43-59 record.
Casey said his No. 1 goal is to give the Raptors a "defensive identity." He partially credited the Mavericks' performance against LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the NBA finals to the breaking down of hockey video.
"Because we felt we were playing too soft against Miami to start the series," he said. "And it really set the tone."
"I don't know a lot about of hockey. I know I'll learn about it. But we spliced in those guys checking players up into the window, into the boards and that type of thing and that's the way we want to play," he said. "We want to make sure people feel us when they cut through the lane. And that's a mindset, and that's having a disposition — a bad disposition — when people come through your paint."
Poor on defense, Toronto missed the playoffs for the third straight season. The Raptors have made it past the first round only once in their 16-year existence, doing it in 2000-01.
The Raptors want to start their improvement Thursday with the fifth pick in the NBA draft.
Casey won't have much input on who the Raptors pick.
"I've learned over the years to step back from the draft because you have to hire trusted people with your scouting department and trust their knowledge," Casey said. "You can give them your input into what you need and what you want, but the bottom line has to come from the scouting department."
The 54-year-old Casey, who also was an assistant for 11 seasons in Seattle, is the eighth coach in Raptors' history. Triano stood quietly at the back of the news conference announcing Casey's hire. Casey said he intends to use Triano as a "resource" and build on what he sees as a core of young talent that includes guards DeMar DeRozan and Jerryd Bayless, center Andrea Bargnani and forward Amir Johnson.
"Defensively, I'm going to be a hands-on control freak, so to speak," he said. "Offensively, I'm going to trust and give them freedom."
Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said he got a call from Dallas coach Rick Carlisle in the wee hours after the Mavericks won the championship.
"Rick Carlisle said, 'Bryan, I want to know what it's going to take to get Dwane that job in Toronto. It's right for him, it's right for you, it's right for the situation. You need to strongly consider it,'" Colangelo said.
"He comes with exceptional support from people in very high places," he said. "There's a lot of people that are rooting for Dwane to do well here. They think it's the right time," he said.
DeRozan was at the news conference and said he and his teammates welcome the new commitment to defense.
"I think everybody's definitely going to buy into it because we've got a young team and we could cause a lot of havoc on the defensive end," DeRozan said. "I want to improve as a person and as a team player."
Casey promised a free-flowing approach with the ball.
"The last time I checked, the reason why you win games is scoring, so we're going to put a high premium on that too," he said. "We want to keep the pace up tempo with our young team because we have the athleticism."