This time, Mitchell's the choice

TORONTO -- Sam Mitchell understands there might be questions
about his inexperience as a head coach going into his first season
leading the Toronto Raptors.

So he has a few answers.

Mitchell, hired Tuesday just two years after he retired as a
player, will rely on his assistants to help him out.

Mitchell, who played in the NBA for 13 years, was an assistant
coach for the expansion Charlotte Bobcats for the past month. After
playing for Minnesota and Indiana, Mitchell spent two years as an
assistant with Milwaukee before leaving for Charlotte.

"I understand the concerns ... that's why we're going to have a
great support staff around me," said Mitchell, who is expected to
add longtime NBA assistant Jim Todd to his staff. "We're going to
have guys that have coached many years."

The Raptors gave Mitchell a three-year contract worth nearly $5

Mitchell was a candidate for the Raptors' job last season before
it went to Kevin O'Neill, who was fired after a 33-49 season.

The Raptors fired general manager Glen Grunwald during the
season and recently replaced him with Rob Babcock, Minnesota's
former vice president of player personnel.

Mitchell and Babcock know each other well. The 40-year-old
Mitchell spent 10 seasons with Minnesota, and served as a mentor to
league MVP Kevin Garnett, who jumped to the NBA from high school.
Mitchell is the club's leader in games played at 757, and was
second in scoring with 7,161 points.

"Sam was more than a player, he was like a player/unofficial
assistant coach," Babcock said. "He was the type of guy who would
stay after practice every day, not just to work on his game but
also to talk the game with the coaches, with Kevin McHale, with

The Raptors chose Mitchell over Seattle SuperSonics assistant
Dwane Casey and Detroit Pistons assistant Mike Woodson.

"Sam doesn't have a big ego. He knows he has some things to
work on and learn," Babcock said. "I guarantee with his work
ethic and his desire to learn, he's going to be a much better coach
in February than he is in November."

Mitchell -- Toronto's third coach in the last three years -- takes
over a team that's been decimated by injuries. Raptors star Vince Carter hasn't played a complete season in four years.

Mitchell missed just 40 games during his playing career due to
injury or illness. Mitchell wants to meet with Carter.

"We have to get Vince's heart and passion back into it. We need
his all, just being here is not enough," Mitchell said. "We need
Vince back motivated and ready to play."

He said he'll implement an up-tempo offense.

Asked whether the Raptors are good enough to make the playoffs
next season, Mitchell smiled and said: "I sure hope so."

Mitchell hopes to replicate the success of first-year Milwaukee
coach Terry Porter, whose team surprised many by holding the fourth
playoff position in the East until the final day of the regular
season. Porter was an assistant for just one year before becoming a
head coach.

"We had a goal to shock everybody in the NBA by making the
playoffs. Whether that's going to happen here, I don't know, but
we're going to work to be a playoff team," Mitchell said.