TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors are truly Masai Ujiri’s team now.
Bryan Colangelo abruptly stepped down from his role with the Raptors on Wednesday, ending their brief experiment as co-presidents of the squad.
“Having had a better chance to reflect on things for the past several weeks, I have concluded that stepping away from my position is the best course of action for the organization and everyone involved,” Colangelo said in a press release Wednesday.
The Raptors said Colangelo will remain as a consultant with the team and with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd.
The 48-year-old Colangelo lost his job as general manager in May, after the Raptors went 34-48 and failed to make the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. He remained as president in a non-basketball role, while Ujiri was hired as general manager and president of basketball operations.
Ujiri insisted at his opening news conference there would be no problems working with the man who was once his mentor in Toronto.
“There’s no issue with Bryan Colangelo,” Ujiri said at his introductory news conference earlier this month. “No issue. None whatsoever. Zero zero issue. None.”
He did however make it clear who was running the team now.
“I’ll take Bryan’s input when I feel it’s necessary, Wayne (Embry, Raptors senior advisor) has always been a great mentor to me,” Ujiri said. “But at the end of the day, I’m going to put my staff together and we’re going to figure this all out collectively. But basketball decisions are going to be my decisions, so it doesn’t matter who tells me what or how it’s done, at the end of the day, I’m sitting right here on the hot seat.”
Ujiri, who worked under Colangelo as Toronto’s assistant GM from 2008 to 2010, signed what was reported to be a five-year, US$15 million dollar deal with the Raptors this month.
Ujiri, who was named the 2013 NBA executive of the year, left his post as GM of the Denver Nuggets to come to Toronto.
Colangelo was honoured with that award in 2007 when the Raptors won its only Atlantic Division title in franchise history. Since then, Toronto has not had a winning season.
The Raptors began the 2012-2013 season with high hopes, having acquired dynamic point guard Kyle Lowry from the Houston Rockets and shooting guard Landry Fields from the New York Knicks via off-season trades, and adding their 2011 first-round draft pick Jonas Valanciunas to the roster.
But despite a promising lineup, the Raptors began the 2012-2013 season on a shaky start, winning just four of it’s first 23 games.