Raptors coach Jay Triano focusing on task at hand rather than murky future
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, April 12, 2011 3:06PM EDT
Amid the mounting losses and uncertainty about a future that is frustratingly unclear, Jay Triano has summoned strength from his past.
The Toronto Raptors have just one game left in a season to forget before an off-season full of question marks. Neither Triano's job as head coach, Bryan Colangelo's position as president and GM, nor the immediate continuance of the league itself is a given right now.
But as the late Canadian coaching legend Jack Donohue used to tell Triano, the only thing within his control is today.
"Jack used to tell us, 'Yesterday is a cancelled cheque, and tomorrow is a promisory note, and today is cash in hand,' " Triano said. "The only one that has any immediate value is the cash in hand.
"So live each day and do the best that you can every single day. That's the way we've approached this, and I think it's a great way to approach life: live every day and plan for the future, and dream for it, but you've got a chance to make a mark today, so do it today."
Triano will wrap up his ninth season in Toronto and second as head coach, when the Raptors (22-59) host the Miami Heat (57-24) on Wednesday (Sportsnet One, 8 p.m. ET).
The Raptors have an option for another year on Triano's contract that has to be picked up by June. The contracts of his assistants, except P.J. Carlesimo, are expiring as well.
Triano and his staff have spoken briefly about the future, but tried not to dwell on their murky futures.
"The conversation usually goes: `Guys, there's nothing we can do about this but our jobs, and let's go out there and be very prepared and let's not stop working,' " Triano said. "It's a trait we want to extend through the players as well.
"Sometimes we forget that they're 21, 22 years old. We want to set a good example by always being prepared, and never giving up. Then at the end of the day, nobody will have a problem looking in the mirror and saying, 'I did the best I could.' "
Looming large this off-season is also the threat of a lockout. The collective bargaining agreement between the union and league is set to expire June 30.
But Triano, who's Canada's first NBA head coach, said uncertainty is a constant in sports for coaches and athletes, whether it comes at the end of a season or end of a career.
"Being in the game as long as I have, you go through situations, like, 'What does the future hold when the Olympic Games are finally over? What am I going to do after this?' " said Triano.
The 52-year-old from Niagara Falls, Ont., has long been a face of Canada basketball after a decade playing on the national team for coach Donohue, and then seven years as its head coach.
But the mounting losses have thrust Triano in the glare of a harsh spotlight, and the disappointing season hasn't been easy on his family and friends.
"My parents and family and friends just want us to win so bad and they take it personally," said the father of three. "I go to visit them, and they're like, 'How do you remain so calm and cool?' Meanwhile, they're yelling at the TV.
"But we all knew this year was going to be a tough year for us. When your family gets upset, you tell them this is a process, we're going through it right now and it's not fun, and I'm sure the fans feel the same way. But you have to go through this in order to get these young kids to develop."
And that's Triano's biggest source of pride this season.
The Raptors opted to rebuild around a young core rather than sign high-priced stars after losing captain and all-star forward Chris Bosh to Miami in the off-season. But their season took a turn for the worse when they lost hard-nosed rebounder Reggie Evans for 51 games to a broken foot, and Linas Kleiza's season ended after just 39 games (knee surgery).
Making matters worse, Toronto has also been hit hard by injuries down the stretch, losing Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon, among other key players, for significant chunks of games.
But the younger players -- DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis, who are both 21, Jerryd Bayless (22) and James Johnson (24) -- who found themselves suddenly playing significant roles have made the most of the opportunity.
"I'm proud of the way our young players have developed," Triano said. "They were thrust into a position where they've had to play and they've had to perform.
"That was one of our goals going into this season: make sure we develop our young players, stay positive, keep teaching and keep encouraging them. That's the No. 1 thing that we accomplished this year."