Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey gestures against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first half of Game 4 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Monday, May 7, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

NBA Raptors fire head coach Dwane Casey

Bench boss was just named league’s coach of the year

TORONTO — Dwane Casey has paid the price for the Toronto Raptors’ second-round playoff exit.

The most successful coach in Raptors history was fired Friday after Toronto was eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third consecutive season.

“After careful consideration, I have decided this is a very difficult but necessary step the franchise must take,” team president Masai Ujiri said in a release. “As a team, we are constantly trying to grow and improve in order to get to the next level.

“We celebrate everything Dwane has done for the organization, we thank him, and we wish him nothing but the best in future. He was instrumental in creating the identity and culture of who we are as a team, and we are so proud of that.”

Casey, 61, led the Raptors to four Atlantic Division titles in five seasons, and three consecutive 50-win seasons. The Raptors had their eyes on an appearance in the NBA finals after winning a franchise-record 59 games in the regular-season, including 34 wins at home — tied with Houston for best in the league.

But LeBron James and the Cavs undid all the positivity of the regular season with a four-game sweep, prompting cries of “same old Raptors.”

Casey was fired two days after winning the Michael H. Goldberg coach of the year award, which is handed out by the National Basketball Coaches Association.

The Raptors’ historic season came after Ujiri called for a “culture reset” last off-season. Toronto revamped its offence to focus on three-point shooting and better ball movement, and focused on developing the bench, which became the envy of the league.

The Raptors were the only team in the playoffs that finished in the top five in both offence and defence. But they couldn’t continue that strong play in the post-season.

Casey won an NBA title as an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks, and was hired by Toronto in 2011 when the Raptors decided not to pick up the option on Jay Triano’s contract.

Toronto’s regular-season record improved in all but one of Casey’s seven seasons.

He coached the Raptors to the Eastern Conference final in 2016 where they took Cleveland to six games. The Cavs went on to beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals.

Casey posted a 320-238 (.573) overall record at the helm of the Raptors.

There was no immediate word on his replacement. Ujiri was expected to provide more details at a media availability later Friday at the team’s practice facility.