The giddiness over Jay Triano will have to wait.
There is much happiness for Triano. Words fail at describing the arc of his hoops odyssey that began long ago in Niagara Falls. For the people old enough to remember the glory days when Canadian ballers dreamed big dreams (thank you, Mike Hickey, your book is great), it must be a trip to see a disciple of Jack Donohue, a great Canadian even if his accent and birthplace said New York City, being one of the 30 men coaching a NBA team.
The resistance is twofold, eh. Hoser Nation has outgrown the First Canadian phenomena and (b) you have to look at the circumstances with the Raptors and Canada Basketball.
No doubt was a time when it would have been unthinkable that on some Sunday afternoon, there would be a NBA game in Toronto with one of our own coaching the home team, with a NFL game taking place right down the street. That era is long gone, thankfully. The point is that Jay Triano did not get this job because he's Canadian. His fellow coaches, in the NBA and in international basketball, one would hope, don't see him as Canadian. They see him as a coach who happens be Canadian.
The same feelings can be projected on to Douglas Coupland, Feist, Seth Rogen, O.J. Atogwe, the St. Louis Rams strong safety from Windsor who's likely going to the Pro Bowl, Jim Balsillie, or Ro Russell's Grassroots Canada program. They don't expect to be told they're "pretty good for a Canadian." They want to be the best — and still have people realize where they're from.
(Digression: Some people will say this is contradictory, coming from the biggest CIS fetishist around, but that's different. All I have ever wanted is for collegiate sports here to enjoy something like the attention that they do in the States. The Houston Chronicle, chron.com, for example, has five blogs dedicated to college football.)
That's what any of us should want. At the same time, you do want people to understand the realities of trying to make it in a creative or competitive enterprise when you're from, to update Mordecai Richler's phrase, the multicultural ghetto of the north. Opportunites are fewer and farther between in Canada, a country of 33 million people, living alongside a land of plenty of 300 million. We should realize that, given those odds, yes, Jay Triano coaching the Raptors is remarkable.
However, that Captain Canada routine is not patriotic. Realizing that it is not enough is patriotic. That is one way to segue into the current state of the Raptors and our national team program.
At this hour, Triano just become the first Canadian to coach a NBA game on Canadian soil when the Raptors tip off vs. the Portland Trail Blazers. Of course, as you know, the Blazers boast Brandon Roy, whom Bryan Colangelo had available to him when he drafted Andrea Bargnani No. 1 overall two seasons ago. The wisdom of drafting Bargnani is starting to advertise itself a whole lot better, but as greater minds have already noted, Roy plays shooting guard, which is the Raps' biggest weakness in Year 3 of the Great Raptor Redesign.
The Raptors, as Newsday noted today, could have had Mike D'Antoni as coach if Colangelo had acted quicker with Sam Mitchell. They probably need to make a trade like yesterday (seriously, if they could have Steve Nash, why not?).
(About Smitch ... it was tempting to say that the same casual fans who are interested that the Raptors have a Canadian coach are the same ones who said, "but wasn't he coach of the year?" when you would expound on why Mitchell needed to go. It just seemed cruel.)
There's a lot of uncertainly over where the Raptors are headed, not to mention their place in the Canadian sportscape (although, does it really matter if they don't have much footprint outside Southern Ontario? Toronto is 6 million people, that's plenty big enough). If we had a federal broadcast regulator with any teeth or a federal government that wasn't completely dysfunctional — and gets away with being dysfunctional because Canadians don't care — Raptors fans might actually be able to see all of the team's games on TV.
Anyone who's remotely acquainted with Canada's fortunes over the years in international basketball also knows about being teased, about dreaming of things that never were. Canada will likely face a tough road trying to qualify for the 2010 worlds and the 2012 London Olympics.
It's in million-times-better place than it was when Triano was fired from the national team in '04, but there's still a lot of work to be done. If you're looking to impress friends and win drinks at cocktail parties, you should start mentioning Ettore Messina as a possible coach for either the Raps or Canada — it just sounds impressive, not that anyone will remember when you're proven right.
To sum up, yes, one should happy this is happening, but keep your eyes open. Of course, one hopes when all is said and done, Jay Triano has done more to put Tillsonburg and Niagara Falls on the map than Stompin' Tom Connors and the Falls themselves.
Donohue would be proud as his student makes history (Steve Simmons, Sun Media)
New Toronto coach hoped for Stockton's spot (Jody Genessy, Deseret News)
Fast Break (Paul Jones, sportsnet.ca)
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