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Raptors Fire Mitchell

Less than two years after winning Coach of the Year honours, Sam Mitchell has been fired as head coach of the Toronto Raptors.

It’s always been a love-hate relationship between Mitchell and the media and fans in Toronto, but this year things became too much and the team severed it’s ties with the coach this afternoon.

Talk of Mitchell losing his job started last week after a closed-door meeting between Mitchell and Bryan Colangelo, but after the team won two-straight games it looked like Mitchell had earned some job security.

It appears that 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.

“This is a difficult but necessary step the franchise must take,” Colangelo said in a statement released by the team. “We appreciate all that Sam has done for the organization, applaud him for his successes and wish him nothing but the best with his future in basketball.”

Mitchell posted a 156-189 (.452) record in his four-plus seasons at the helm of the Raptors and was awarded the Red Auerbach Trophy as the NBA Coach of the Year for the 2006-07 season.

Moving a couple seats down the bench will be Jay Triano.  He’s in his seventh season as a member of the Raptors’ coaching staff and became the first Canadian born and Canadian trained coach in the NBA when he served as an assistant coach to Lenny Wilkens during the 2002-03 season.

Triano has yet to be a head coach in the NBA, but he served as interim head coach for one game last season when Mitchell was away for a personal family matter.

I’ve dealt with Triano numerous times over the past year and his knowledge and passion for the game has always shone through.  He’s well deserving of a chance to be a head coach in the NBA, it’s just a shame it has to come mid-season and at the expense of his former coaching associate losing his job.

Ryan McNeill
Ryan McNeill has appeared on ESPN Radio, MTV Canada, SiriusXM, The Fan 590 and other radio programs and TV shows. He has covered the NBA with media credentials since the 2007-08 season.
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  • Chris Clarke

    Wow, this is news to me. Thanks Ryan.

    I find it weird they would fire Sam mid-trip. They’ve still got a game on Friday night, usually coaches are fired after they get back from a tough road trip.

    Just looking back at Colangelo taking over a couple years back, I remember people saying that Sam wouldn’t last more than a year before Colangelo brought in his own guy. Of course, Sam coached the Raps into first in the Atlantic and won coach of the year. I wonder if Mr. Colangelo has anyone he wants to speak with immediately, or if he’ll call this season a failure and try to find Sam’s replacement when the coaching carousel comes around at season’s end. Triano’s great from a PR perspective because he’s Canadian and has coached the men’s national team. That said, he’s not an NBA head coach from what I can tell. Any speculation on who might be brought in? I think when you have a guy like Sam in for his first head coaching gig, you want to bring in someone with a ton of experience next. Who’s out there?

  • Ryan McNeill

    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.

    While it’s not typical for a coach to be fired during a road trip, it’s also not normal for a general manager to travel with the team on such a trip. Once BC got on the plane for this week long trip out west you knew trouble was brewing. Getting blown out last night by Denver was the final straw.

  • Brendan de Haan

    I agree with the situation of firing of Sam. To me he was a 1 hit wonder in the year he won coach of the year and ever since he has made suspect moves with players and hever really improved in areas that were needed. Sam might be a good guy in the media but that doesn’t roll over to wins in the stat column.

    i hope that we get Flip to replace him.

  • Johnn19

    We shall see now if it was Mitchell holding back “the most talented team of Colangelo’s tenure in Toronto”, or the players. Looks like the players gutless effort in Denver was designed to force Colangelo to act. Can Raptors win with this kind of players???? WE SHALL SEE.

  • Rashad

    Whenever a coach gets fired this early in the season, you always wonder if it was in the works during the offseason. And how wild is that Ryan, that the teams that we cover have new coaches..

  • Me

    They need to get an experienced and respected coach and quick, or else they have no chance of resigning Chris Bosh as a free agent. Or should I say, “tree agent.”

    Get it? Because he’s tall? Ha ha ha, I’m still giggling at that. I can’t believe I just thought of that now. “Tree agent.” That’s brilliant. And it applies to, like, everyone in the NBA (except Allen Iverson. I’ll need a different pun for him). Amare Stoudamire is going to be a “tree agent” soon. Ha ha ha.

    Wait here. I’m going to go tell everyone about this.

  • Coach Godwin

    Wow, is any coach safe? I agree with you Ryan, I would love to see Avery Johnson get another chance. Great Coach!!!

  • Ryan McNeill

    BDH – Flip Saunders? Ugh… how would that help this team? I think someone like Avery Johnson would be a great fit if Triano doesn’t work out. And that’s a big if. I think Triano might just be what this teams needs.

    Johnn19 – I think a big part of the problem has been injuries. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team have a great second half once JO and Calderon are healthy and Bargnani gets used to playing SF.

    Rashad – The HA curse strikes in more ways than one. A couple writers are hobbled with injuries and now the coaching connection. Shh… don’t let word about the “HA Curse” get out…