DETROIT (AP) — Dwane Casey lost his job in Toronto because the Raptors wanted to advance further in the playoffs.
In Detroit, it would be an accomplishment if Casey can simply get the Pistons into the playoffs.
The Pistons hired the NBA coach of the year finalist Monday, hoping he can help the three-time NBA championship franchise regularly reach the postseason and eventually compete again for titles.
"Dwane is one of the most successful and highly respected coaches in our league," Pistons owner Tom Gores said. "He's a great communicator and a leader who will connect with our players and accelerate their growth. Having spent many hours with Dwane over the last few weeks, I'm confident he is the right person to get us to the next level."
A month after being fired by the Raptors , Casey agreed to a five-year deal to become head coach of the Pistons, two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Monday. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the team had not announced the move, which was first reported by ESPN.
Casey led Toronto to a team-record 59 wins this year and helped the franchise earn the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time, a performance that won him coach of the year honors from his peers at the National Basketball Coaches Association. He had one year remaining on a three-year, $18 million dollar extension when he was fired shortly after Toronto was swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was 320-238 in seven seasons and is Toronto's winningest coach.
The Pistons said Casey has already started work, including meetings with players, and will be introduced at a news conference next week.
Detroit had been looking for a coach for more than month since firing Stan Van Gundy , who was also its president of basketball operations. Michigan coach John Beilein was a finalist for the job before withdrawing his name from consideration last week and San Antonio Spurs assistant Ime Udoka also was a candidate.
"I'm confident that this team has the pieces in place to compete at a very high level," Casey said. "There is a lot of talent, a solid core and some exciting young players eager to get better. We're getting to work right away on the things that will make us all successful."
Casey certainly has work to do.
The Pistons have made the playoffs only once in nine years after advancing at least to the Eastern Conference finals six straight years, winning the 2004 NBA title and falling a victory short of repeating as champions in 2005. They do not appear to have much flexibility to make significant changes this offseason.
Detroit acquired Blake Griffin in a blockbuster trade this past season and that wasn't enough to push Detroit into the playoffs. An injury to point guard Reggie Jackson derailed what looked like a promising season. If healthy, the Pistons do potentially have an intriguing nucleus with Griffin, Jackson and Andre Drummond.
"In our meetings he displayed great insight into what this roster can accomplish, and great passion about our city and the team's role in bringing people together," Gores said. "He's an outstanding man with impressive character. He embodies our culture and will be a great representative for our franchise."
The 61-year-old Casey is getting his third shot to lead an NBA team.
He coached the Minnesota Timberwolves for a little more than one season, going 53-69. He also has experience in the league as an assistant with Dallas and Seattle.
Casey, who is from Morganfield, Kentucky, played for the Wildcats and helped them win the 1978 NCAA title and began his coaching career the next year as a graduate assistant under Joe B. Hall. He later back to campus to work as an assistant for Eddie Sutton. He has five years of coaching experience in Japan and has spent time around the game in Europe.
Under Casey, the Raptors won four Atlantic Division titles and advanced to the playoffs in five consecutive seasons. But Toronto couldn't get past Cleveland, losing to LeBron James and the Cavs in each of the past three playoffs, getting swept this year and last year.
Detroit moved into a new downtown arena last season, but with the exception of some brief success after trading for Griffin, the team didn't create much buzz. The Pistons are still looking to hire someone to head basketball operation. They did bring in Ed Stefanski as a senior executive.
AP Sports Writer Noah Trister contributed to this report.
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