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Casey surprises students at a Toronto school
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Raptors coach Dwane Casey surprises Toronto school, takes in Grade 7/8 rebranding project: Kelly | Toronto Star
You know all you need to about Dwane Casey, the coach . He’s got the ring to prove his bonafides.
Here’s a little Dwane Casey, the man.
On Wednesday morning, the Star was invited to take a look at some of the work done by Tom Veenstra’s Grade 7/8 class. They’d taken the Star’s Raptors make-over campaign and run with it. The kids wanted to show off their work.
On the off chance, a call was made to Casey. He’s in town, working out a small corps of Raptors players. He’s famous for his 16-hour workdays. But maybe . . .
“Sure,” Casey said. “Can you have me back by 10? We’ve got practice at 10.”
This is not the way these community outreaches are done. They’re usually planned out at the corporate level like the landing at Normandy. Casey isn’t a very corporate sort of guy.
Photos View galleryRaptors Coach Dwane Casey signs students drawings from Market Lane Public School project pegged to our invitation to readers to submit what a new Raptors uniform would look like. The Grade 7 and 8 class has made it a project on how they would rebrand the Raptors franchise.zoom
We pull in at Market Lane Junior and Public School on The Esplanade just after 9. Mr. Veenstra’s waiting. This shouldn’t take long. But it takes long.
Heads start whipping in the hallways immediately.
“That’s Dwane Casey!” one kid shrieks from about six feet away. We pause for the national anthem.
“This is nice,” Casey says. “French.”
We plough through a half-dozen late-arriving well-wishers on the way to Class 313. One wide-eyed kid approaches with exaggerated deference.
“Coach Casey,” he says, hand extended, like they meet every morning for coffee.
“You play basketball?” Casey asks. A nod. “Good. Keep trying.”
It’s supposed to work like this. Mr. Veenstra introduces the Star. Then the big reveal. Casey is waiting in the hallway. Veenstra pulls open the door.
“And now . . . I’d like to introduce . . . Coach Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors.”
There’s a small kerfuffle out in the hallway. Casey has been waylaid by another kid, who’s gone all trembly. The trembly kid then bursts through the door and screams, “IT’S DWANE CASEY OUT HERE!” The crasher’s teacher comes roaring out of a nearby classroom and hauls the kid off. A Beatles moment.
The kids are looking unsure now. Murmuring. Is this some sort of put on? After a dramatic pause, Casey walks in, smiling.
The classroom goes silent. It’s June. In their minds, they’re already on summer vacation. And now they’ve had the year’s big talking point sprung on them.
Each of them has done a complete rebrand of the Raptors . New name. New uniform. Many of them have written the President’s speech to introduce the revamped squad.
Jannath’s starts out like this: “I’ll be honest, it has been quite a tough season last year and we sort of slacked off not doing so well.”
Is the MLSE hiring committee still hiring? Because we’d like to offer some MLSE hiring advice.
We’ve got all sorts here — the Towers (because, as Umrin notes, “it represents the rapidly built condo towers on the waterfront”), the Sparks, the Fire, the Ice (“because we’re north,” says Cyril), the Swish, the Greyhounds, the Slammers, the Knights.
Here’s why Tahsin decided on the Knights: “I made it because it might have a moral impact on the players.”
Did we talk like this when we were 12 and 13? No. Maybe that explains how things turned out.
One wisenheimer has come up with the Toronto Ball Busters. Which you’ll admit, is kind of funny.
The author isn’t here today. The work’s laid out on his empty desk.
“This guy’s in trouble a lot of the time, isn’t he?” the very serious looking young woman who sits beside him is asked. She nods vigorously.
Casey hones in on one design. Deep blue. A team named the Wildcats. Just like coach’s alma mater.
“That’s Kentucky blue!” Casey says delightedly. The Wildcats creator squirms with pride. Casey moves one seat over. A lighter blue.
“And that’s North Carolina blue!” He sounds just as excited.
Casey moves slowly through the room. A hand on every shoulder. An interested question. He listens carefully to the answers.
Later, when no one’s listening, he will say, “My gosh, they really put a lot of effort into that. And so creative!”
Dwane Casey. Big time coach. Bigger time man.
Speaking of time, it’s a factor now. His own class is waiting back at the ACC.
Casey gets up and thanks the class for caring. He is careful to note that no decision has been made about undertaking a rebrand, but he’s going to take some of their suggestions back and share them.
(A straw poll of the room — 6 of 21 would stick with Raptors. Marketing can’t like those odds.)
Question period starts off slow, but the children are warming to this.
“Who’s better? Kobe or LeBron?”
“I knew someone was going to ask this,” Casey sighs.
“Kobe, he’ll take your heart out,” Casey begins, and then recalibrates for the unusual audience. “I mean that in a good way.”
He starts telling stories, about his playing days. About the time he was invited to try out for the Dallas Cowboys (a new one to us). About how a small kindness to a visiting coach who spoke no English earned him his big career break — an invitation to coach the Japanese national team.
“Treat people as you’d like to be treated,” Casey says. “You never know who you’ll meet in life who’s going to help you.”
Someone asks his favourite part of coaching.
“Teaching,” Casey says. “Myself, if I wasn’t a coach, I’d be a teacher . . . Believe me, I wish I could be like (Mr. Veenstra), a teacher. I hope I’m a good teacher. That’s the compliment I hope my players could say about me — that he taught me well.”
Now the adult in the room squirms with pleasure.
It ends with a lovely ritual — appreciations.
“Who has an appreciation for our guests?” Mr. Veenstra asks.
Hands shoot up. Coach is appreciated for coming, for looking at the work, for taking the time. They do this in grade school. The rest of us should give it a try.
The last appreciation comes from Majedur: “I appreciate you for giving me your autograph.”
Casey has to hustle. The class all leap up and hustle after him. While the boys stand back shyly, two braver girls run up and ask if they could have Casey’s autograph as well. They’ve got a Sharpie, but no paper. Both pull up their sleeves. Casey now autographs the arm of every kid in the class. Once again, there’s a small, kind word for each.
“Some of these kids aren’t going to wash now, coach,” Principal Dane Lowry says, sotto voce .
“They better,” Casey says.
Down to the office, where the adults begin grilling him for NBA Final Game 6 predictions. (Casey’s verdict: The Spurs don’t have to win tonight, but they have to win tonight).
Back in the car, roaring down the Lakeshore, only five minutes late for practice.
Casey will do other, more visible things in the months to come. He’ll win or he won’t. He’ll be judged on that basis.
On Tuesday, just by showing up, he may have made a small course change in the direction of a young life.
Basketball doesn’t make Dwane Casey special. That does. That’s how I choose to judge him.
Last edited by jeffb; 06-19-2013 at 12:18 PM.