Tim Leiweke held a press conference on the phone with members of the media last night and what he had to say must have been music to the ears of fans of the Toronto Raptors.
"What the board told me, unequivocally, in the dance we just went through is they want to win," Leiweke said. "They want that to be my highest priority. I told them as they will hear from L.A., I got up every day trying to push everyone toward winning championships and we've got the resources to do it."
When the Ontario Teacher Pension Plan owned MLSE it was a case of them wanting to maximize their asset and increase profits. However, with Rogers and TSN now owning MLSE, it appears the two media conglomerates appear to be all in when it comes to field competitive franchise.
Lieweke has been part of 11 championships during his time in Los Angeles and he's not happy with the current state of the Raptors.
"I don't think anybody is happy with the Raptors being out of the playoffs as long as they have," Leiweke admitted. "I've learned under the curve of Jerry Buss and Jerry West. You do not find two better teachers than those guys on how to build an organization that not only wins one championship but becomes a dominant organization. The Raptors have that chance. They have the fan base, they have the ownership, they've got the support economically. We need to build the culture that Jerry Buss built with the Lakers, that Jerry West built with the Lakers. I don't know if that requires change or not. We're going to find out real quick."
A big part of that is establishing a culture of winning here in Toronto.
"The Raptors have to aspire to be the Heat and the Lakers," Leiweke explained. "A team and a city that people want to be apart of. That's what we're going to build, that culture there. Same with the Maple Leafs. I used to hear rumblings of, 'Guys don't want to go to Toronto because the pressures are too much.' Well, I think that one's easy. Let's start winning Stanley Cups and everyone wants to come to Toronto."
One of the people Leiweke helped establish a winning culture with and built a bond with in Los Angeles, Phil Jackson, was rumoured to be heading to Toronto so Leiweke was quick to dismiss this rumour.
Well, at last partially.
"We didn't have any of those conversations, nor was it appropriate," Leiweke told the media when asked about the rumours involving Jackson. "I felt like it was inappropriate to have any discussions until we finalized the deal and announced it and in return he was just calling to tell me best of luck."
To me, "until we finalized the deal" is that sticks out from the quote. It sounds like Leiweke has a lot of respect for Jackson - understandably so - as well as a strong working relationship built on trust. There's also a need for doing things the right way and a desire to wait until he was hired and able to assess things before he moved forward with looking at either retaining Bryan Colangelo or trying to bring Jackson into the mix here in Toronto.
The reality is Colangelo hasn't been able to get the Raptors into the playoffs for the past five seasons and Jackson is waiting in the wings. Don't be surprised if Leiweke shows Colangelo the door and then Leiweke and Jackson start discussions about the coaching legend working in Toronto's front office.
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- Toronto Raptors
- Tim Leiweke