The Toronto Raptors got off to a sluggish start this season, and general manager Bryan Colangelo had seen enough on Tuesday after one of the most embarrassing losses in franchise history.
Colangelo fired coach Sam Mitchell a day later and put assistant Jay Triano in charge of getting the season turned around. Triano will make his debut on Friday night when Toronto wraps up a three-game road trip against the Utah Jazz.
Mitchell led the Raptors (8-9) to the playoffs in each of the last two seasons and was the NBA’s coach of the year for 2006-07, but Colangelo has been unhappy with the team’s start to 2008-09.
Toronto won its first three games, but has gone just 5-9 since.
Injuries have been part of the reason for their slow start, as Jermaine O’Neal and Jose Calderon missed time, but both played in Tuesday’s 132-93 loss to Denver - the fifth-worst in franchise history.
Colangelo said that was the final straw.
“Obviously, (Tuesday’s) game was just an absolute kick to the gut,” he said. “When you look back, it’s a culmination of things. Expectations are high. We want to win.”
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’ staff, and served as interim coach for one game on Feb. 13, leading Toronto to a 109-91 victory over New Jersey.
Triano said he wants the Raptors—ranked last in the NBA in fast-break points (6.6 per game)—to push the ball more.
“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.”
Three-time All-Star Chris Bosh was close with Mitchell, but is focused on helping Toronto end its funk.
“We can’t let it affect us,” Bosh said. “No matter what happens we have to have a positive mind-frame and we have to move on. We can sit here and mope and complain and have excuses, but that’s not us. That’s not going to get us wins, and the season isn’t going to stop because of it. We have to move on.”
The Raptors have dropped four of five on the road, including the first two on this trip, and Bosh needs to improve his play away from Toronto.
He is averaging 17.0 points on 40.0 percent shooting in his last three road games compared to 33.8 points on 56.3 percent shooting in his last four home games.
In his only game against Utah (12-8) last season, Bosh had 14 points and seven rebounds in Toronto’s 92-88 loss.
The Raptors have had little luck against the Jazz lately, dropping six straight to them since a 98-86 victory on Dec. 22, 2004. Toronto has also lost its last three trips to EnergySolutions Arena, and is 3-9 all-time in Utah.
While they’re not scuffling like the Raptors, the banged-up Jazz have their own problems.
Carlos Boozer is expected to miss his ninth straight game with a strained tendon in his left thigh, and Andrei Kirilenko (ankle soreness) and Matt Harpring (strained back) might also miss this contest.
“We just don’t have a whole lot of rhythm right now,” Kyle Korver said after Wednesday’s 93-89 home loss to Miami.
Utah, which was a league-best 37-4 at home in 2007-08, is 8-3 there this season. The Jazz have averaged just 88.5 points in losing their last two home games after averaging 106.3 points in their first nine in Utah.
They have not dropped three straight home games since April 7-14, 2007.