TORONTO - A 1,300-pound boulder sits just inside the front door to the Toronto Raptors' dressing room, a physical reminder of the mentality Dwane Casey is trying to instill in his new team.
Heading into what the Raptors head coach is calling a "building" season, Casey has implemented a new motto: Pound the Rock.
"I knew we were going to be a work in progress, every time we walked on the floor we were going to have to have something to get us to think about ... how we have to get better, we've got to work to get better," Casey said earlier this week. "It's from a story about a stonecutter. Every time a stonecutter hits a rock it may not break, you may have to hit it 100 times but on that 101st time you hit it, now you crack the rock."
The motto is written on the walls of the team's practice gym and in the locker-room.
The boulder, purchased at a quarry in Thornhill, Ont., just north of Toronto, is there to remind the players every time they walk on the court. They're supposed to touch it as they pass by and will leave every huddle with a call to "Pound the Rock!"
The meaning of the phrase goes back to Jacob Riis, a social reformer who wrote about the plight of the poor in New York in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
"That's our motivation this year, as you know rocks are hard to break, and our goal is to break that wall and to persevere," said forward Jamaal Magloire.
Raptors employee Graeme McIntosh was sent out to find the stone that stands about three feet tall, snapping a photo on his phone and sending it to Casey for approval.
The stone, which cost about $500, was then washed and shipped to Air Canada Centre.
Casey said the rock won't win his team games, it's just a physical reminder that hard work eventually pays off.
"So every day we walk into practice it may not end up in a 'W', it may not end up in a great game, but we've got to keep pounding, we've got to keep hitting the rock, and eventually it will crack," Casey said. "That's why we work every day to get better. And you can use it in any walk of life, whether it's as a journalist, or in a lawyer's profession, doctor, whatever it is, we all have to pound the rock."
Casey isn't the first person to implement the mantra in sports. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden used the "Pound the Rock" motto and had a rock in the NFL team's locker-room in 2002, the year it won the Super Bowl.
The San Antonio Spurs also have the rock and the motto.
The Raptors players seem to have embraced the philosophy.
"Naturally our first meeting was when he introduced the theme and everybody gravitated to it right away," Magloire said. "I just think you've just got to remember it and always persevere and break through that wall — or break through that rock — as we say."