With the Toronto Raptors 2010–11 campaign drawing to a close and head coach Jay Triano’s contract set to expire at the end of the season, the brass at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment must be pondering whether or not to bring the beleaguered bench boss back for another term. In an interview yesterday, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo offered this:
“Jay has done everything we’ve asked of him in this rebuilding process, and despite the circumstances he has maintained a positive work environment around the team. His contract will be addressed sometime after the season.”
Triano’s tenure has certainly been short of stellar—this season in particular. The squad’s record is an abysmal 20-53—a mark destined to be the third worst in club history—and the Raptors will miss the playoffs for the third straight season. But can Triano really be blamed for all that? Even a passing glance at Toronto’s roster returns an obvious answer: no. With that in mind, we explore five reasons the 52-year-old Canuck deserves another shot.
1. He’s had a young and inexperienced roster
The Raptors sport one of the most youthful teams in the NBA. Each night, they trot out a lineup featuring a rookie (Ed Davis); two key players in just their second professional season (DeMar DeRozan and James Johnson); a backup point guard in his third season (Jerryd Bayless); and a motley crew of other role players that play significant minutes despite their lack of pro experience. Many of these guys know how to work with Triano, and he can help build them into more mature players.
2. The team has been decimated by injury
First off, the Raptors’ most experienced and vocal player, Reggie Evans, has spent 47 games on the bench with a broken foot. Evans was one of the league leaders in rebounds when he went down, and it’s not unreasonable to think the Raps would’ve won at least a handful more games if he had been healthy. And Evans is only the tip of the injury iceberg for this year.
3. No help from the man upstairs
Because MLSE has made it clear this is a rebuilding year, management hasn’t made any effort to go out and get Triano the kind of players he needs for the team to win games. The plan for the Raptors is geared for the long run—the trouble for Triano is that NBA coaches tend to be judged on whether or not they win now.
4. A glaring dearth of talent
There’s no doubt that Triano has been dealt a difficult hand. He took the team over in the midst of a transition period, and the bones that have been thrown his way have turned out to have very little meat on them (see: Turkoglu, Hedo). The hard truth for the organization is that no amount of coaching could make the Raps’ current squad into contenders.
5. It makes financial sense
If Triano’s option is picked up for next season, he’s set to make just over $2 million—a relative bargain in NBA terms. Triano isn’t in a position to ask for more dough, and what’s more, work stoppage is a real possibility. The team will likely be loath to bring in new, more expensive blood. MLSE surely doesn’t want to shell out the big bucks for a coach that may not preside over a single game next year.
(Image: C.J. LaFrance/Stringer/GettyImages)