As the great Norm Peterson of Cheers fame once said, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world and I’m wearing Milk-Bone underwear.” That’s how Dwane Casey must have felt last week.
In a league filled with stars and their interesting stories, Casey’s story just rose to the top. First, Casey–the most winning coach in the Toronto Raptors franchise’s history–received the NBA’s Coach of the Year award, voted on by the league’s 30 head coaches. It capped a remarkable year of Casey’s leading the Raptors to the best record in the conference and a number one seed going into the playoffs.
Two days later, he was fired.
Turns out, the front office wants Casey to win playoff games, not just regular season games–and he has been less successful at that. Still, the dismissal sent shockwaves through the league.
Casey would have been justified in having a wide variety of frustrated responses. Instead, he responded by sending the following letter to The Toronto Star:
Thank you to basketball fans across this city and the country of Canada who supported the Raptors and welcomed my family with open arms during our seven years here. Thank you to all the fans who cheered us on at the Air Canada Centre while we built this program into a playoff contender, packed Jurassic Park even in the cold and rain, watched the games from home and offered their undying support as we traveled this road to relevancy together.
Thank you for teaching our all-American family the Canadian way. That being polite and considerate to one another is always the best way. That diversity is something to be embraced and celebrated. That taking the time to learn about each other’s cultures is the surest way to find common ground and understanding. Thank you for making our children feel safe, valued, and comfortable in their own skin. We cannot express how important it has been to build the foundations of who our children are as human beings in a country that shows through its words, actions and laws that all people deserve basic human rights, and a chance to reach their goals through education and hard work.
It’s the epitome of an emotionally intelligent response. Here’s why.
Casey’s emotionally intelligent response includes specifics, not platitudes.
First of all, Casey chose the high road of showing nothing but respect for the opportunity he had been given–a powerful lesson for us all, and so easy to forget in the heat of the moment.
Beyond that, I admire the specificity of his appreciation. He didn’t just give a generic “thanks for the memories.” He specifically listed what he and his family took from their experience in the city of Toronto. This included what his family learned about the Canadian way of being polite and kind, how they were made to feel safe and welcomed, how to value diversity, and what they learned about the value of education and hard work.
It amplified the sincerity of the very thoughts themselves. We can learn from this. Start with gratitude, yes, but specificity of gratitude helps reinforce its sincerity and doubles its power.
Note how Casey went beyond basketball to the much bigger picture. That’s something many of us can lose sight of, especially when something bad happens to us.
Casey could have stayed in the world of basketball, his own world, with his reaction (whether emotionally intelligent or not). Instead, he chose to elevate: not only the nature of the response but the subject matter of it, too.
So the next time something unsavory is done to you, think of Casey’s letter to the city of Toronto. Maybe his open letter will open your heart and mind to a response of gratitude.
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