Before Troy Weaver joined the Detroit Pistons last summer, he had long admired Dwane Casey from afar.
Weaver was a longtime AAU coach and college assistant coach before joining NBA in scouting and front office positions. Coaches tend to follow each other, he said on Thursday, and he’s followed much of Casey’s career. He became better acquainted with Casey when he was an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks, and Weaver was an assistant general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The two teams faced each other in the 2011 Western Conference finals.
That offseason, Casey was hired as the head coach of the Toronto Raptors. Weaver witnessed Casey help mold the team into an Eastern Conference contender after six-consecutive non-playoff seasons.
Beyond seeing Casey as a really good coach, Weaver thought he had a good eye for talent as well. It factors into why Weaver was excited to work with Casey after being hired as general manager last June, and why the Pistons further committed to Casey on Wednesday.
Casey and the organization agreed to a one-year extension, locking him in until the 2023-24 season. For the Pistons, it gives them additional continuity as they navigate the beginning of a rebuild. They think highly of the job Casey has done developing the young roster this season. And they view his presence as being key to the franchise reaching contending status again.
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“It was extremely important that we extend coach,” Weaver said Thursday. “It was an important part of everything we’re doing, we wanted him to be lined up with this restoration. He’s leading the cause on the floor. He’s really re-energized our group. Done a tremendous job with the rookie class and free agents. Just with the team as a whole. The most important thing going through this restoration is having continuity and consistency and extending coach provides that for us going forward. That was the most important thing for us, to be lined up as we’re going through the restoring process.”
The extension is also a big win for Casey, who said he’s been re-energized this season while coaching this group. He’s made a point several times this season to praise owner Tom Gores for giving the franchise a clear direction. After failing to win a playoff game in 2018-19, and having last season derailed by injuries, the rebuild was necessary, Casey said.
The Pistons have seen major progress from its rookie class this season, as well as from other players on the roster. All four 2020 draft picks — Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart and Saben Lee — have become prominent rotation players. Bey and Stewart both have strong cases to make an All-Rookie team at the end of the season.
Sekou Doumbouya, Detroit’s lone 2019 first-round pick, has played some of the best basketball of his career this past month. And Casey has also coaxed season-best performances from several of last summer’s free agency signings. Jerami Grant is a contender for the Most Improved Player award, Frank Jackson has become a 3-point sniper off the bench and Mason Plumlee’s logged two triple-doubles, the only two of his career.
Casey credits his relationship with Gores as the reason why he’s confident in the franchise’s belief in him. He’s been fired twice — by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2007, and Raptors in 2018. Gores and Casey communicate often, and have a mutual understanding of what their shared goal is.
The extension could be viewed as a vote of confidence by the front office, but Casey doesn’t see it that way. Even before the extension, he knew he had their support.
“It’s not easy and we’re not a finished product yet, but that does help, having that relationship with Mr. Gores and seeing his vision, wanting to do it for him, leaving a legacy here for the city of Detroit,” Casey said. “When I leave, I want to leave it a better place than I found it. The only way we can do that is build a winner, a perennial winner here. And that takes time from where we started. But we’re on the right path going there, what they did as far as the extension. I don’t want to say it validates, but it gives you energy to know that we’re all on the same page .”
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