A year and a half ago, he distinguished himself as the NBA's Coach of the Year. Yesterday, Raptors head man Sam Mitchell officially became former Raptors head man Sam Mitchell.
Whether or not Mitchell was the cause of the problems thus far this season in Toronto is debatable, and perhaps that debate will be affected by what the future holds for the Raps. For now, however, it appeared the Raptors' front office decided that someone needed to take a fall for the team's uneven 8-9 start out of the gate this season. As is often the case in pro sports, it tends to be a lot easier to remove the coach than to change the on-court personnel (plus, changing the players is often seen as an implicit admission of fault on the part of the general manager).
Mitchell had a reputation for being a bit prickly with the media and fans, and it didn't help that his temper wasn't getting his team to guard anybody lately (26th in defensive efficiency), and the Raps haven't exactly been world-beaters offensively this season (17th in efficiency). Mitchell guided the team to a 20-win turnaround in 2006-07 but also to a first-round playoff exit via upset. The squad fell back to .500 last season and exited early again. A season later, after the front office took a risk in acquiring Jermaine O'Neal, Chris Bosh is killing it even by his own lofty standards, and the team is still struggling. Someone has to face the music, so Mitchell goes.
I got a chance to speak with Hoops Addict's Ryan McNeill late last night, a devout Raps fan who has had the chance to cover the team up close since 2007. In addition to the informative post he has up on site, Ryan took the time to give me a few thoughts on Mitchell's departure:
While it's been a tough year and a bit dealing with Sam Mitchell, I feel for him being fired today. Despite him being ornery to myself and other members of the media most nights, it's tough to see anyone get fired. Did he deserve to get canned? Probably not. Did someone have to take the fall for the Raptors' slow start? Yup! With that being said, it looks like the firing of Mitchell could mean this season is scrapped, and Jay Triano could get a chance to finish the year. If this turns into a debacle, it could spell the end of Chris Bosh's tenure in Toronto once he become a free agent two summers from now. Because of that, I'd like to see a well known and respected coach such as Avery Johnson take over the reigns sooner rather than later.
Good stuff as always from Ryan, and we thank him for the time. That said, just 17 games into the season with a talented albeit flawed cast of players and a start that has been far from terrible, I'd be very surprised if we've heard the last from the Raptors.
Of course, the most disturbing Raps information might come courtesy of this line in Ryan's write-up:
It appears that [job security] was short-lived because after a road loss in Los Angeles on Sunday coupled with the franchise’s fifth worse loss last night in Denver the team decided to part ways with Mitchell.
The final score of that Denver game was 132-93. For those feeling the lethargic on the subtraction this morning, that's a 39-point difference. The Raptors are only in their 14th season of existence, and they've lost four games by at least 40 points? They're barely teenagers!
Of course, each of those losses counts just as many times as every one-point loss: once. So we're a bit tongue-in-cheek about the "disturbing" nature of the information. But it seems a bit odd nonetheless. Happy trails, Sam Mitchell.
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As noted in this post's title, we've also got a bit of news for you as far as general NBA coverage on this site is concerned. After some discussion in the CelticsBlog front office this week, we have decided to consolidate our overnight NBA coverage. While the full-length Daily Babble feature will continue to run each afternoon (though the time may be changing slightly, more on that to come soon), we have elected to turn late-night NBA posts (such as this one) into semi-weekly activities. We're currently working on some new themes for those pieces, and we can assure you that they will be a bit longer than the individual late-night posts as they will be covering several quick-hitter thoughts over the course of each week. I can promise that we're not short-changing those of you interested in general NBA writing or scaling back our coverage, but we've chosen simply to rearrange the way we present that content. As always, you're more than welcome to voice any questions or concerns in the comments or to contact me (or any staff member) privately via e-mail with any feedback you have. Thanks as always for your continued support, and I look forward to continuing to serve the wonderful readership we have here.
We're back with the Babble as always on Thursday afternoon and beyond, and we'll next see you in the overnight early next week. Until then, in the words of the incomparable Paul Farash...