On Saturday morning Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Toronto Raptors were hot to trot for Denver Nuggets personnel chief Masai Ujiri, which is a smart trot to be hot for, considering that Ujiri once worked for the Raptors, and the reigning NBA Executive of the Year. Prior to that news, though, the team was leaning on stranger outfits to guide their search.
The Toronto Raptors had been rumored to be hot on Phil Jackson’s trail, not as a head coach, but for a job running the team’s front office. They’re also trying to figure out the direction of the franchise after yet another year lost to the middling depths of the low lottery, while sussing out a payroll that currently is set to send them into luxury tax territory next season. They also have until Monday, because of a contract deadline, to determine whether or not current general manager Bryan Colangelo will be the man to lead them out of the mess that, um, Bryan Colangelo just made.
It’s clear that Tim Leiweke (the new CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment) needs some help in figuring out what to do with the team his company owns, and any outside help is appreciated. Instead of going with a basketball mind, someone who has been there before or someone who is willing to think in hoop-related terms while minding this mess, MLSE has gone elsewhere. They’ve hired a head-hunting firm, weirdly. From the great Doug Smith at the Toronto Star:
While not officially on the job yet, Leiweke has been given all responsibility to determine Colangelo’s fate. The two men have met and discussed plans for the Raptors future but neither has spoken publicly about their feelings.
And Leiweke is not conducting the search for a possible replacement on his own; multiple NBA sources say MLSE has hired a head-hunting firm to whittle down a list of possible replacements.
Two names being tossed around NBA circles at the league’s annual draft combine are Kevin Pritchard, currently the general manager of the Indiana Pacers and Troy Weaver, the vice-president and assistant general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
There may be others on any short list compiled by the unnamed search firm but neither of those are seen as the slam-dunk, high-profile executives many were expecting to emerge from Leiweke’s search.
Colangelo needs to go, and it’s clear that new MLSE Tim Leiweke was so unimpressed with the presentation that Colangelo gave the former Anschutz Entertainment Group CEO earlier this month that he’s considering other names to help lead the Raptors to their first playoff appearance since 2007. Phil Jackson, apparently, wasn’t receptive to whatever interest MLSE showed in the former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers coach, and as a result MLSE is stuck in no-man’s land with Colangelo’s contract deadline approaching. To some, the wait prior to the potential decision has become infuriating.
Still, there’s no shame in going a week or two without a GM. Especially if it means passing on Colangelo, and mostly because the Raptors are without a lottery pick in June’s NBA draft. Even with a payroll that could exceed $72 US next year, few would pick the Raptors to make the NBA’s playoffs in 2013-14 as currently presented, and if the next GM decides to rebuild (as the Raptors should) few NBA teams would be lining up to trade for the high-priced players that Colangelo signed off on acquiring.
This is why the Raptors need to take their time as they hunt down a new GM. This is also why the Raptors probably need to think in basketball terms, and limit the influence of a head-hunting firm that will only offer the names of unsuccessful NBA GM deputies as potential replacements. That’s how business often works, with the tenured number two candidates ready to take on the role directly above them, regardless of their acumen.
There was hope in Toronto, after Leiweke took over. It appears as if he’s handling the potential dismissal of Bryan Colangelo in a very Bryan Colangelo-styled way. There are a lot of cufflinks on the payroll, now.