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Raptors coaching shuffle starts as the staff dynamic changes


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It wasn’t exactly a blood-letting nor was it in the least unexpected whet the Raptors divested themselves of a couple of assistant coaches.

Yes, you can add Tom Sterner to the list of the departed along with Bill Bayno – that was confirmed a bit after the Mighty Tigers won a big road game and if you think you can multi-task, try to text with a handful of people while coaching third base and writing while your teams in the field – on a busy Victoria Day night.

That’s some fireworks.

Anyway, here’s what happened, pieced together by a handful of long conversations with people around the league.

Bayno wanted to go, he wasn’t overjoyed with his season in Toronto and he was exited, as they say at the highest levels of important human relations departments, at least a couple of days ago. It really had little to do with any performance issues, put that right out of your mind, please.

Sterner? He’s a casualty; there was really nothing specific that he did wrong, it’s just that Masai, after his post-season chinwags with Dwane, wanted some changes and Sterner got caught up in it. I’m told some of the TV broadcasts won’t be nearly as entertaining with him gone but that’s no big deal.

The other two, Jesse Murmuys and Nick Nurse, seem safe, at least from folks I talked to. Murmuys actually worked in Denver with Masai so I would presume he’ll stick around, Nurse is seen as something of an up-and-comer after some D League success.

I was told after the Bayno stuff got out that one, or maybe two, others would gone; Sterner’s one but I don’t know if the second will happen or not.

Anyway, I don’t imagine any of this will shift the balance of power in the Eastern Conference and while both Bayno and Sterner were good guys, it’s no like they were Red Auerbach and Red Holtzman.

The interesting thing to look for is who will come in and how the new staff will be constructed and it’s funny but we were just talking about the dynamics of assistant coaches and coaching staffs yesterday on the radio.

Head coaches like to have with them friends and long-time colleagues. They like to have people they know to bounce ideas off, coaches they are familiar with so they can sit around and complain about players and GMs and what have you in those private moments we all have talking about people who work for us and people we work for.

That’s basic human nature and it happens with every NBA team in the league, trust me on that.

And GMs like to have their hands in a staff, too. Not so much because they want “spies” but because they want someone they can go to and perhaps use a conduit for a subtle suggestion or two to the head coach when things might not be going so well.

And personalities play a huge role in this. Coaching staffs are together at least six days a week from late September until at least late June, and there will inevitably be moments of tension and the odd argument, again that’s simple human nature. And it’s easier to handle those rough moments if you’ve got a history together, if you can argue, get over it and move on.

I haven’t heard a single name as a strong possibility to join the staff but there is some logic that would suggest finding a recently-retired player (and, no, Oak is not that guy because he’s told me he’s not really interested in coaching again, perhaps because he’s worried about the repercussions when he strangles some young player) and someone who’s been around winning programs for a while.

And here’s one name that I’m throwing out without being able to confirm any interest: Rex Kalamian, who is an old friend of Dwane’s and has worked for several teams before being let go in purge that got Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City.

Now, while I had no issues with Bayno or Sterner and certainly don’t with Nurse or Murmuys and won’t likely have anything but respect for and a professional relationship with whoever comes in, there’s this:

You know I think head coaches get too much blame when things go bad and too much credit when things go well so you can imagine what I think of the overall impact of assistants.

They teach basic basketball, work on skill development and technique; it’s something a thousands guys can do. They can be as creative as all get out in developing strategies and schemes but it means diddly-squat if the talent isn’t there on the roster.

So, yeah, they can go hire whoever they want and fire who they want but the NBA is a players league and this team needs more good players.

For no reason, this came to mind

Anyone ever been to Ontario, Calif?

Need some because we’re headed there in early October for a delightful exhibition game.

It was the Lakers who put out the announcement a couple of days ago and that’s the only firm Raptors date that I’ve got.

Last I heard – and it was 99 per cent done but not done-done – is that we’d spend some training camp back in Vancouver, which is never a bad thing, and then head down the coast for a couple of games, obviously including the Oct. 8 game in Ontario.

Not sure about any Canadian dates, although I have been told there will be game in Winnipeg and Ottawa but that’s all I got on that. I can’t say whether either of those will involve the Raptors because I don’t know.

And that’s your pre-season update because vague details about stuff that might happen five months from now is entirely necessary information.

Yes, I totally did pick Atlanta to beat Cleveland because it’s a total guess and why not go with an upset you can rationalize picking?

Besides, as much as I really, really, really dislike Atlanta, there are direct flights from there to both San Francisco and Houston; you cannot go anywhere easily from Cleveland.

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