Struggling Raptors fire Mitchell just 17 games into season
TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors fired coach Sam Mitchell on Wednesday and replaced him with assistant Jay Triano, one day after an embarrassing loss at Denver.
Mitchell led the Raptors to the playoffs in each of the last two seasons and was honored as the NBA's coach of the year for 2006-07. Toronto was off to a sluggish 8-9 start, due in part to injuries.
General manager Bryan Colangelo said Tuesday night's 132-93 loss to the Nuggets was the final straw. Toronto allowed Denver to shoot 60 percent from the field and the Nuggets' 37 assists were the most by an NBA team in regulation this season. The 39-point difference marked the fifth-worst loss in franchise history.
"Obviously, last night's game was just an absolute kick to the gut," Colangelo said. "When you look back, it's a culmination of things. Expectations are high. We want to win."
Mitchell is the third NBA coach to be replaced this season. Oklahoma City fired P.J. Carlesimo and Washington dismissed Eddie Jordan last month.
Colangelo said Triano, the first Canadian head coach in NBA history, likely would be in charge for the rest of the season. Triano is in his seventh season on the Raptors' coaching staff and served as interim coach for one game in February, leading Toronto to a 109-91 victory over the New Jersey Nets.
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The Raptors were ranked last in the NBA in fast-break points heading into Wednesday's games, and Triano said he wants the team to play faster.
"I think running becomes a mind-set and a habit," he said. "I think if it's not enforced it becomes easy to walk the ball up the court.
"We're committed to trying to find easier ways to score the basketball."
Mitchell, the sixth coach in franchise history, signed a three-year contract in 2007 after he led Toronto to a franchise-record 47 wins and the Atlantic Division title. He went 156-189 in four-plus seasons with the Raptors.
Mitchell played 13 seasons in the NBA and spent two years as an assistant coach in Charlotte and Milwaukee before coming to Toronto.
"I have a lot to be thankful for, they really gave me the opportunity to have a career in coaching, something I always wanted to do after I played," Mitchell told Canadian sports network TSN. "So yeah, it's a disappointment that I really wasn't given the chance to finish what I started, but you know what, I feel like I accomplished a lot of good things. I think the players that played for me all got better."
The Raptors' first game under Triano is Friday night at Utah.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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