Wait a second … what’s really going on here

What to make of the Raptors’ decision yesterday to relieve Sam Mitchell of his coaching duties?

———-

Well …

First.

This whole business that …

Sam Mitchell was somehow never Bryan Colangelo’s CHOICE to run the Raptors’ team …

* Smitch is Out, Bring Back the Cursing

… is completely false.

The simple FACTS are these:

1. Sam Mitchell was the Raptors’ head coach when Bryan Colangelo was hired as the Team’s GM [Feb 2006].
2. At the conclusion of the 2006-2007 season Sam Mitchell was voted the NBA COTY Award.
3. During the summer of 2007, Bryan Colangelo CHOSE to re-sign Sam Mitchell [to a multi-year contract worth millions of dollars] as HIS coach for the Toronto Raptors.
4. Approximately 18 months later, on Wednesday, Dec 03 2008, Bryan Colangelo relieved Sam Mitchell of his coaching duties with the Raptors.

———-

Second.

A list of sights and sounds observed, thus far, by yours truly, regarding the explanation of events provided by Bryan Colangelo:

Part A – From the individual Conference Calls of Bryan Colangelo and Jay Triano with the Toronto media on Wednesday afternoon

* Sam Mitchell was a good coach for the Raptors during his 5 seasons with the Raptors.
* Sam Mitchell is a highly intelligent basketball person, who understands the ins and the outs of the NBA game and was well-paid to coach the Toronto Raptors.
* There comes a time when a change is needed in the lead voice within a NBA team’s locker room.
* Sam Mitchell has always had a good relationship with the players he’s coached, who have always seemed to play hard for him, save for specific periods, so far, this season.
* The feeling still exists within the Raptors’ basketball brain-trust that this collection of 13 players is the “most talented” team put together yet by Bryan Colangelo.
* There’s an expectation that this team, as is, is under-performing.
* There’s an awareness that this team, as is, has a flawed roster.
* There’s a belief that this team, as is, has not been playing its best players enough.
* There’s a belief that certain players were not being put in specific situations offensively to maximize their abilities to help this team perform at a level which is consistent with its perceived talent-base.
* There’s a strong belief in the ability of Jose Calderon, as the PG for this team.
* There’s a belief that Jermaine O’Neal has shown, in a period of 5 or 6 games, so far this season, that he has what the Raptors’ basketball brain-trust was looking for when they traded for him this summer, i.e. 16 pts, 9-10 rebounds and 1-2 blocked shots per game.
* There’s a belief that this team should be “running” in offensive transition [and scoring] more consistently than it has been, to this point, this season.
* There’s a belief that the players on this team have a strong belief in one another.
* Jay Triano is the new coach for the Raptors, at least, until the end of the current season, at which time he will have an opportunity to be named the permanent head coach, along with any other candidates who might be available at that time.

Part B – From the Raptors’ Official Website

* The events of Wednesday do not coincide yet with the specifics of what this observer saw and listened to in the post-game interviews from Tuesday’s debacle vs the Nuggets:

I. re: Sam Mitchell II. re: Jermaine O’Neal III. re: Jose Calderon and IV. re: Bosh

“Cause, as you know, I played in the League. Mike Evans played in the League. Alex English played in the League. You know, at the end of the day, coach’s coach, but the players go play. You’ve got to out and compete every second you’re on the court.”
Sam Mitchell [former Head Coach, Toronto Raptors]

… which is most intriguing.

————

Third.

John Hollinger’s take on the situation … which has considerable merit.

———-

Fourth.

The exact timing of this decision yesterday [early Wednesday afternoon] … of all days, when there was a “players only” meeting scheduled for the morning, in place of a regular practice session between games, that followed the post-game “players only” meeting  … is a key to understanding, in part, some of what is still insidiously wrong/corrupt with MLSE, and the way in which this organization chooses to conduct its pro sports related business.

Trust that this corner will be seeing and listening intently over the next little while to the words and the quotes which come directly from the different parties involved in this decision, made abruptly yesterday … to decipher accurately what it means for this franchise, short and long term, going forward from here.

—–

To wit:

Analysis: Mitchell firing not a surprise
This team’s a lot better than an 8-9 record,” Colangelo said during a late afternoon teleconference. “Despite the criticism of this roster, this is a roster that was put together on a consensus basis…you might look back at last season, and the games, a series of games, where we underachieved. Expectations were high.”

—–

* Did that 2nd “players only” meeting happen Wednesday morning?
* Did it happen prior to this decision being made?
* Or, did that 2nd meeting not take place at all?
* If it did … Who exactly was running this team, at that moment, when Sam Mitchell was relieved of his coaching duties with the Raptors, from amongst this specific group of players?
* And, if it did … To whom is that person[s] reporting?
* What was really accomplished by making this move yesterday?

——————————–

When dealing with an entity like MLSE, and a most intelligent person, like Bryan Colangelo, know that it’s an elaborate Game of Chess … and, Every Move Must Have A Purpose.

Part of the fun, therein, lies … with trying to figure out what that purpose actually is.

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34 Responses to “Wait a second … what’s really going on here”

  1. FLUXLAND Says:

    Khandor, you are losing me a little bit here. Not sure what you are getting at with the second meeting. What difference does this second meeting make on anything.

    1st meeting occurred after the game, and Sam never addressed them, except for in the media. 2nd meeting occurred after which Jay addressed them.

    I truly believe the firing decision was made prior to the Denver game, (why is CB4 laughing up a storm on the bench and making a statement on his facebook book page early wed. morning?).

    • khandor Says:

      Flux,

      Right now I have few answers myself, but the list of questions is growing.

      When the players on a NBA team use the locker room for a “players only” meeting, right after a game, in which they got shellacked by 39 pts, that doesn’t raise any immediate concerns for me.

      When 3 of their main men then give post-game interviews in which they each say basically the same thing, i.e. that the team’s current plight IS NOT CONNECTED TO THE COACHING THEY’RE RECEIVING but has to do with the way the PLAYERS THEMSELVES ARE PLAYING and the NEED FOR THEM TO GET TOGETHER AS A GROUP ON THE SAME PAGE, that doesn’t raise a concern for me, either.

      However, when they then schedule a follow-up meeting for the next morning, at which time they intend to address the issues in full, with one another … and that meeting #2 never gets a chance to happen at all,

      because their coach is fired, on Wednesday afternoon, after the scheduled start time of meeting #2

      something doesn’t sit quite right with me.

      What was likely to happen in meeting #2 that someone did not want to have take place, at all?

      Or, if it did happen, what took place there that may have pushed the situation beyond the tipping point, as far as Bryan Colangelo was concerned?

  2. FLUXLAND Says:

    Also, interesting enough… you can see thru the comments, even from the start of the season or his acquisition, that JO seems to be the spokesperson for team. Bosh is clearly IMO not the leader of this team. What does the fact he never said a word during this meeting tell us?

  3. Dave Says:

    Khandor, are you wondering if there was a player’s revolt that got Sam Mitchell fired?

  4. Johnn19 Says:

    It was definately a player revolt that got Sam Mitchell fired, whether intentional or not. The performance against Denver was the final straw, a TEAM meltdown, the mental meltdown vs New Jersey, the TEAM letdown vs Boston in TO and in Boston, when they let up, all games they were not expected to win if you looked at the quality of the opposition, except the Nets game. But the lack of effort was disapointing, and unfortunately you can’t replace 12 players, so goodbye Sam Mitchell, and good luck Jay Triano, your going to need it.

  5. khandor Says:

    Dave,

    No, not a players’ revolt.

    Which specific players were upset?
    What exactly were they upset about?

    Based on what O’Neal, Calderon and Bosh has to say in the three interviews they gave after Tuesday’s game … this was not a coaching problem, at all.

    Yet within hours of that meeting #2, if it happened at all … their coach was relieved of his duties?

  6. khandor Says:

    Johnn19,

    Based on what you saw and listened to yesterday, exclusively … not in the games played to this point … What indicates to you that there might have been a “players’ revolt” [in general] against Sam Mitchell?

    … because I’ve seen and listened to nothing, thus far, which indicates that to me.

    ==============

    On the contrary … if anything, what I saw and listened to yesterday indicates to me, the more I think about it, that there’s a possibility something is indeed wrong inside this locker room … within different factions of players who are quite possibly upset with one another, in the form of a “civil war”, not a “revolt against their coach”.

    —————–

    Spidey senses are begining to tingle now. 😉

  7. FLUXLAND Says:

    Khandor,

    I really don’t think what the players say in the media can be trusted. I don’t understand how you are so trusting of their words, in the PR game.

    I think the second meeting took place and players were informed of Sam getting fired.

    I think the players knew well in advance there was a possibility of Sam getting fired and in fact there was desire on their part for him to be gone.

    Bosh’s not joining the huddle vs. Boston and laughing up a storm on the bench while the team is getting whipped by 40, is very telling, to me. This is how someone who takes accountability acts? As the supposed leader of the team?

    Him not speaking during the players meeting, I think shows he is no way the leader of this team or has been released of the duties by JO.

  8. FLUXLAND Says:

    On a side note, how do you feel about “your” Suns, with their performances lately? And how do you feel about the Cavs addition this summer?

  9. FLUXLAND Says:

    Also, Bosh and JO have been, by all accounts, BFF. I have a suspicion that players don’t like Jose, but he spoke during the meeting. I really don’t see who doesn’t like each other. But I did mention yesterday I believe that, since the addition of JO this team doesn’t seem to have the same closeness as last year.

  10. khandor Says:

    Flux,

    You’re assuming too much.

    Until I hear that that 2nd “players only” meeting actually happened on Wednesday morning either prior to or after the axe fell on Sam, I think it’s much more realistic to consider that it never happened at all.

    Or, that if it did happen, it took place prior to the final decision being made to fire Sam … which then opens up a host of other lively possibilities.

  11. FLUXLAND Says:

    Oh, I never said I wasn’t. Trying to be logical here, I guess. I don’t think the answers are anything that doesn’t happen in the normal course of a team falling apart.

  12. khandor Says:

    Flux,

    When this team hits the floor tomorrow night, we’ll be able to see where the cracks are in the foundation.

  13. FLUXLAND Says:

    How so? Just wanna know what you will be looking for.

  14. khandor Says:

    Flux,

    Btw … they are not “my” Suns, in any way, shape or form … although back in 1975, I was cheering for Garfield Heard’s rainbow J to hit nothing but net. 🙂

  15. Dave Says:

    Khandor,

    Just a question to make sure I’m following what you’re saying.

    By a player’s revolt I meant did the players ask Colangelo to fire Mitchell, like Penny Hardaway and Brian Hill? (why is that the first example that comes to mind? Maybe it’s the Richie Adubato quotes I was reading earlier)

    You’re not wondering if that happened but more if the players were unhappy with Mitchell … and if unhappy, who was unhappy and what where they unhappy about?

    So you’re not wondering if they engineered it, but if there was unrest behind the scenes … and this is your interest in the second meeting.

    Am I following that correctly?

  16. FLUXLAND Says:

    Haha! I know.. but there were numerous glowing posts in the summer regarding this team and it head coach, if I remember correctly. Also, there was talk of the Cavs taking serious steps back with their signing.

  17. khandor Says:

    Dave,

    I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on it just yet but, right now .. no, I wouldn’t say that’s quite it, either.

  18. khandor Says:

    Flux,

    You should know already that … Steps forward and/or back only occur for me in the NBA Playoffs, not the regular season. 😉

  19. FLUXLAND Says:

    HAHAHA! Man, I am getting to know you so well. I KNEW, I absolutely KNEW you were going to say that. Thanks man! You are great! (no sarcasm there at all, in case you wonder) 😉

  20. FLUXLAND Says:

    About the second meeting assumption. If there was no meeting to let the players know, are you thinking they found out when everyone else did? Or that they got emails and texts? And if they didn’t know ahead of time, wouldn’t someone by this point say “Oh wow, man, didn’t see that coming”. You ask me, Jose’s comments were well thought out in advance., no?

  21. Dave Says:

    Okay.

    So something appears like it may be off and you’re in an investigatory state because the answers might be very interesting. It’s a wait and see situation.

  22. khandor Says:

    Dave,

    In a certain way, right now … Spidey senses are saying that it might be more like the opposite.

    e.g. if the GM got a sense that certain players were beginning to get very angry with the way that certain other players were performing and beginning to accuse them of not being on the same page as everybody else, who was on the same page with the coach, then one way for him to react to that would be for him to squelch that wildfire immediately, by relieving the head coach of his duties, and inserting a different voice into the middle of that locker room.

    Watch the three inteviews which O’Neal, Calderon and Bosh gave after the Denver game another time.

    Are those the words of men who believe that the way to go in this current situation was to fire their head coach?

  23. khandor Says:

    Flux,

    A team meeting with the players and Bryan Colangelo on Wednesday morning, or with Jay Triano, or with Sam Mitchell, etc., to inform them of the firing is not the 2nd meeting I’m speaking about.

    The 2nd Meeting I’m talking about specifically is a the follow-up “players only” meeting which was originally scheduled to take place on Wednesday morning, in place of regular practice, in the aftermath of the 1st Meeting, which was “players only”, as well, in the locker room immediately after the game in Denver.

  24. FLUXLAND Says:

    I am interpreting the 2nd players only meeting as a meeting with the players without Sam or any coaching staff, players only, with someone there to inform them about the upcoming events.

    Are you assuming this meeting was scheduled on Tuesday?
    If practice was canceled, could you not assume that they knew on Tuesday?
    Why did Mitchell not address the players post game at all?
    If Jax saw “the writing on the wall” on Sunday.. fair to think Sam did as well?
    Why are you convinced that everything went down on Wednesday?

  25. khandor Says:

    Dave and Flux,

    Unless Jay Triano is, in fact, going to follow some combination of my rotational suggestions, to a T, and shift …

    Anthony Parker to the back-up PG & OG positions
    and/or
    Jamario Moon to the starting OG spot
    and/or
    Joey Graham to the starting SF spot
    and/or
    Kris Humphries to the starting PF spot
    and/or
    Jermaine O’Neal to the back-up C spot
    etc., etc., etc.

    none of which I see happening anytime soon,

    I just don’t see how it is Bryan Colangelo realistically can think that the roster he’s put together here & now is in fact the most talented he’s constructed, thus far, in Toronto … and is going to right itself, under the direction of Jay Triano, to the tune of 48 or more victories this season.

    One aspect of what he said in his tele-conference on Wednesday was that he needed “more time” … specifically, in a “clean” [I’m paraphrasing here] environment, to better evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the players on the current roster, so as not to make a mistake in judgment when the time comes to eventually “play or fold” this specific hand.

    That’s right … He needs more time?

    He hasn’t seen enough yet … of Anthony Parker, Jason Kapono, Jamario Moon, Kris Humphries, Joey Graham, Will Solomon, Hassan Adams, Roko Ukic, and [get well soon] Nathan Jawai.

    Perhaps because the Raptors’ basketball brain-trust hasn’t been able to develop a solid “concensus” yet on the authentic abilities of these players … and within a “concensus” is how this GM/President prefers to operate.

    As you might be able to glean … I am not a big fan of concensus anything.

    Tomorrow night’s game vs Utah is going to be intriguing, even though half of their team is still in sick bay.

  26. khandor Says:

    Flux,

    re: the scheduled 2nd “players only” meeting [for Wednesday morning]

    I try to assume nothing. 😉

    Listen to JO’s interview again.

    He makes reference to the fact of there being a 2nd “players only” meeting … which was not intended to inform the players of Sam’s firing but … which was called for by the players themselves during the 1st “players only” meeting, held on Tuesday night [in the locker room].

    Specific Rationale being this:

    – 1st Meeting was brief … NBA rules stipulate open access to the press after so many minutes post-game … no such time-lines on Wednesday morning
    – players were instructed to go back to their hotel rooms and reflect on what was discussed briefly by JO & Jose in that 1st meeting
    – practice was cancelled for Wednesday morning
    – the 2nd follow-up meeting was scheduled to be “players only”, at their request, for Wednesday morning, at which time each player was supposed to return and be prepared to “get on the same page as his brethren”

    Question is … did this 2nd “players only” meeting happen [or not] on Wednesday morning? [Yes or No] 🙂

  27. FLUXLAND Says:

    Ok, but what difference does that make, IYO?

    • khandor Says:

      Flux,

      On Tuesday night, after the game, we know that [at least] O’Neal and Calderon felt as though there was a problem of some sort inside that locker room, amongst the Raptors’ players; not associated with or, at least, separated from, the actual “coaching” they were receiving.

      Going forward from here, under the leadership of MLSE, Colangelo and Triano, it is vital to know whether this specific [set of] problem[s] has been solved to the players’ satisfaction, or not.

      Secondly, there are all sorts of different scenarios/ramifications that might apply to this organization if it turns out that Meeting #2 never [or was not allowed to] happened at all.

  28. FLUXLAND Says:

    Wow… so BCs solution to resolving the issue amongst the players was to fire Sam and get a “new voice”?

    That may mean he thinks the players were not being used to their satisfaction and started bickering – which means the issue was not the players but the coaching afterall, no?

    There is little evidence the players talked about a problem with themselves, IMO, regardless of what they are feeding the press. Think about it, does it make sense to portray an image to a future coach, that when the players are unhappy they gang up and get the coach fired?

    Very interesting.

    I’m trying to understand what bearing the fact the meeting took or didn’t take place really bare overall tho. We are only talking about 12 players here. They want to talk amongst themselves, they don’t need a meeting, in this day and age.

    • khandor Says:

      Flux,

      I don’t think there was any type of “ganging up” by players to fire Sam Mitchell.

      As things have played out since Wednesday, it looks more like this move was designed by the Raptors’ basketball braintrust without consultation from the team’s key players, i.e. Bosh, Calderon or O’Neal.

      What it means about a possible “problem” in the locker room with everybody not being on the same page yet … is still to be resolved, IMO.

  29. TrueRapsFan Says:

    I hope I don’t go a bit off your course of discussion here, but I think there are a lot of assumptions being made here in regard to player discussions, desires etc. Simple fact is, this team wasn’t getting it done. I know Khandor doesn’t believe (right term?) in this raps team going far…. but there are lots of us who do.

    Sam almost never had any fire or passion in him (with the exception of the first few games of the season). He really has seemed to get tired over the course of his years here. How often did you see him sit down in frustration, wipe his brow, clap his hands and say “lets go” after a disappointing play? When do you ever see him getting a T (a couple early in the season.. but almost non-existent otherwise). How often did Joey have to sit after a single turnover and 2 minutes on the court? Why did he always have to save his timeouts…. letting opposing teams go on 10 or 12 point runs. He even had a tendency to do this when players were hurt. (ie. Calderon stood under the basket for 2 defensive plays and 1 offensive play when he hurt his groin…. you can’t tell me you don’t foul or immediately call a time out in that situation). He has never been able to reach Moon or Bargnani (debatable with his improvement in play). He was losing Bosh.

    Listen, Sams a good guy and probably a good coach with the right team. He’s defensive minded, but was trying to coach a low def, high off team.
    Either his coaching style doesn’t fit with this team, or the players weren’t buying what he was selling. My only concern is that Triano will end up following in Sam’s footsteps… making any debate on Smitch’s release moot.

    • khandor Says:

      —————————————
      re: I know Khandor doesn’t believe (right term?) in this raps team going far – by TrueRapsFan
      —————————————

      If this is the perception you hold currently then it reveals to me that you haven’t yet taken the time to read thoroughly my take on this year’s Raptors team.

      First. I would encourage you to do this.
      Second. Do not believe what others might tell you is allegedly “my take on this year’s Raptors team”.
      Third. My take on this year’s Raptors team is not simplistic, e.g. their roster stinks, therefore, they are doomed to fail. My take is more nuanced than that.
      Fourth. Those who are interested in hearing my take will read what I’ve written and, perhaps, ask for further explanation about something which is not clear to them right away or with which they might disagree initially.

      ==================

      For those who understand how coaching works in this League, what Sam Mitchell was showing this season was not a depressed/forelorn/give-up attitude that wasn’t there before.

      Sam Mitchell was maturing along with his two best players, Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon. When a young coach begins to mature like that he does not conduct himself in the exact same way he did three years prior, coming off a 27-55 debacle, and now following successive playoff appearances.

      Sam Mitchell’s perception of the quality of this year’s roster, however, was beginning to take shape … and, IMO … a loggerhead was beginning to form between [i] what Coach Mitchell now knows – without a shadow of a doubt – about this team and [ii] what Bryan Colangelo & Co. still “think” about this current roster.

      The way this conflict was then resolved by Mr. Colangelo is what you saw happen on Wednesday, when he fired Sam Mitchell.

      IMO, Sam Mitchell knows what this team is about … now.
      So does Alex English.
      So does Mike Evans.
      So does Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon, and [even, new kid/grampa on the block] Jermaine O’Neal.

      Bryan Colangelo did not like what he was hearing from his coach, and what he was seeing from the players on this team … which he is responsible for putting together, via concensus, or otherwise.

      The man who is on the hot-seat here & now … isn’t Sam Mitchell. Nor is it Jay Triano.

      IMO, the best players on this team did not think that Sam Mitchell is/was THE problem.

      Those best players are beginning to get a much better sense of where the real problem lies … and, it’s now going to be extremely interesting to see how they react as the remainder of this season develops.

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