Of Kipling, Casey And Some Guy Who Goes To Knicks Games

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This guy knew something about something very applicable to basketball.

This guy knew something about something very applicable to basketball.

Dwane Casey doesn’t quote Rudyard Kipling so I will.

The great poet wrote that happiness awaits the person “who can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.”

Which brings us nicely to your Toronto Raptors, who went on 9-1 tear before desultory games against Sacramento and Oklahoma City and then Wednesday’s win over Philly.

If the Raptors are to climb back into the playoff picture, they will need plenty of wins. The hitch: young teams that put together a few wins are often easily distracted by good times. It is true in sports and life, nothing is more instructive than failure. Failure makes you lean. Success plumps you up.

My favorite sportswriter, a guy named Bob Hanley once wrote of a perennial mess-up named Denny McLean, the last big leaguer to win 30 games: “Dennis Dale McLean was built to withstand the rigours of failure but success came along and threw him for a loop.”

So how do you avoid success throwing you for a loop?  Put another way, the youth-laden Raptors need to learn how to cope with success as well as failure.

I thought I would ask Dwane Casey. I didn’t mention Kipling. He strikes me as more of a Robert Service kind of guy.

The first thing Casey stresses is the Raptors are a losing team. Losing teams haven’t accomplished much.

Then he talks about Adolph Rupp.

Rupp was the legendary University of Kentucky coach who prowled the sidelines between 1930 and 1972. In all, seven men have coached at Kentucky over 90 years including Joe B. Hall, for whom Casey played from 1979-1979. Casey spent another eight years as an assistant for Hall.

The truth can be found at Kentucky, Casey said because Rupp’s coaching DNA was passed through countless clipboards.

“When you coach at the University of Kentucky it’s a system,” he said.  “They run the same program, the same drills, every year. They are consistent, and clear. We ran the same drills when Coach Rupp ran the team and we ran the same drills with Coach Hall.

“They say ‘this is how we do it.’ There are no drastic sways. We’re consistent.’ When that consistency is there guys learn from it.”

The emphasis on the system, on process, explains Kentucky’s longstanding success. It is also, Casey said, the way to safeguard against the bi-polar nature of an 82-game schedule.

“I’m sure our guys are bored with our defensive schemes and our sets. I know they are. But that’s the process. Our defense is consistent. It’s the same thing, man or zone, from one night to the next.”

“Winning is the ultimate goal but with a young team the process is more important than wins and losses.”

Kipling couldn’t have said it better but Spike Lee said it as well: Do The Right Thing.

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