Mavs assistant Dwane Casey returns to Minnesota

Updated: November 1, 2008, 11:09 AM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- When Mavericks assistant coach Dwane Casey walks into Target Center on Saturday night to face Minnesota, it will mark his first trip to the arena he used to call home since he was fired as Timberwolves coach in January 2007.

"I'm looking forward to it," Casey told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Dallas on Friday. "I'm excited about the game. It will be a different dressing room, but the same people -- the ushers, the security guards, the front office people."

But only a few players.

Casey may have a hard time recognizing these Wolves. Only two players -- Rashad McCants and Mark Madsen -- remain from Casey's only full season as coach in 2005-06. Randy Foye and Craig Smith were brought in the following year and played the first 40 games until he was abruptly fired. The rest, including Kevin Garnett, have either been traded or let go in a massive rebuilding project.

"I do like their young team they have put together," he said. "They're headed in the right direction."

After spending 11 seasons as an assistant in Seattle, Casey finally got the chance to run a team of his own when the Timberwolves hired him in 2005. But the run was short-lived.

The Wolves went 33-49 in Casey's first year on the job, a season turned on its head at the trade deadline by a seven-player deal with Boston that sent Wally Szczerbiak, Michael Olowokandi and Dwayne Jones to the Celtics for Ricky Davis, Mark Blount, Marcus Banks and Justin Reed.

It was the first of two moves, including signing free agent point guard Mike James the following summer, that poisoned the locker room during Casey's tenure. The team was 20-20 in his second season when vice president Kevin McHale fired him and promoted assistant Randy Wittman, who finished the season 12-30 and went 22-60 in 2007-08.

Casey spent last season traveling and attending basketball camps while still being paid by Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor.

He returned to the NBA this season when new Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle asked him to join his staff. Casey said he's happy to be back in the game and is looking forward to seeing some familiar faces at Target Center on Saturday night.

"It'll be good to see him," Foye said. "He was the head coach who drafted me, so I'm definitely going to say hello to him."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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