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News » Saddled with fresh expectations

Saddled with fresh expectations

Saddled with fresh expectations
The Toronto Raptors have not won much in the NBA in their 13-year existence, which until a few years ago was all about one man - All Star Vince Carter.

The franchise came into being in 1995. Carter was drafted in 1998, and things started to look up, with a bottom team turned into play-off contenders.

But by the time Carter was controversially traded in 2005, essentially for nothing, the dream had turned sour, both the man who was touted as the new Michael Jordan, and for the Toronto fans, and their franchise.

The new saviour came in the unusual form of president Brian Colangelo, hired in January 2006 after 16 years with the Phoenix Suns.

Unlike in our Premier League, NBA coaches know their place - to coach the teams who the presidents and general managers recruit.

Colangelo, surprisingly to many, kept faith with Toronto's rookie coach Sam Mitchell, retooled the Raptors with European players and made a seven-foot Italian youngster, Andrea Bargnani, the first non-American No.1 draft pick.

Amazingly, Mitchell took the new-look Raptors to an Atlantic Division title in 2006-07, and won NBA Coach-of-the-Year honours.

The Raptors were back in the play-offs last season, even though their won/ loss record had declined, and the division title went to the might of the all-conquering Boston Celtics.

So Colangelo drafted in ageing and injury-prone veteran All Star Jermaine O'Neal from Indiana to support franchise player Chris Bosh, and sat back to see if Mitchell could turn the Raptors into championship contenders.

With a 3-0 start this season, things were looking promising, but the Raptors then went into a slide, including losing a 17-point lead to the Celtics, falling at home to Vince Carter and the New Jersey Nets on a last second trade-mark Carter alley-oop, and then suffered a pounding in Denver last week.

Colangelo finally lost patience with Mitchell, and fired him, after the Raptor's 8 and 9 start. Tough on Mitchell, but he had the comfort of a four-year contract to fall back on.

For Colangelo, it was all about delivery and, to him, Mitchell's team was inconsistent.

So now the Raptors are in the hands of an interim coach, Jay Triano, one of Mitchell's assistants, and the first Canadian-born NBA coach.

It is doubtful Triano will be given long to prove his worth. Unless things pick up quickly, Colangelo will likely be canvassing for a more experienced, proven winner.

Expectations once raised are tough to get back in the box. The Raptors and their fans now see themselves as contenders. Colangelo has to make it so.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: December 13, 2008


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