After seven years, including five straight without making the post-season, Bryan Colangelo’s tenure as general manager of the Toronto Raptors is over.
Don’t bid him goodbye, though. Colangelo will remain as team president and will represent the Raptors in New York on Tuesday night for the NBA Draft Lottery.
New MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke said the organization has spent the past two weeks analyzing the team’s management structure and while the timeframe had felt long for many on the outside, it was necessary for him to gather adequate information before moving forward.
“I admire and respect Bryan and his passion and loyalty for the Raptors and for Toronto,” Leiweke said. “I think he’s actually done a good job with that. He’s gotten involved with the community. He’s gotten involved in the game of basketball in Canada. In that area I give him high marks.”
Leiweke stressed that this will be a new position for Colangelo and it will be one he has to get comfortable with.
While he will give input on basketball decisions when asked, the as-yet-to-be-hired general manager will have final say in all basketball moves. The new GM, who the team plans to hire within 30 days, will report to Leiweke and Leiweke only.
“The only way this is going to work is if we hire the GM that has the responsibility and authority to make all basketball decisions at the end of the day and this GM will have that,” he said. “They will have final decision on all basketball-related issues and they will report directly to myself.”
While Colangelo made it clear he understood that whoever the team hires as its next general manager will have the final say in all basketball moves, it was also apparent that he still feels his input can help the organization.
“I’ll give opinion where and when I’m asked about it,” Colangelo said. “This is being portrayed as a non-basketball job. We’re in the basketball business and I’ve got a lot of experience. I think the new guy is going to understand that and appreciate that and I’ll give my opinion. I’m certainly not going to try to run him over because at the end of the day that’s not going to get me very far.”
Leiweke said that in order for things to work, Colangelo will need to learn the boundaries of his new position. After spending the past seven-plus seasons tinkering and then rebuilding a roster that has his fingerprints all over it — for better or worse, as one reporter reminded him on the conference call-it will be a transition that will not happen overnight.
“I don’t believe (in) this position that I’m being pushed off into the corner somewhere, I think I’m going to be utilized in a way and fashion that my 18 years of experience and quite a bit of success along the way is going to be tapped into,” Colangelo said. “Not only by Tim but by the new GM, whoever that is.”
While relieving someone of half of their duties, recognizing the need for change while simultaneously extending the same person as president of the team seems like an odd arrangement, Leiweke made it clear it will be Colangelo that needs to learn his new role and not step on any toes.
Leiweke was honest when assessing the job Colangelo had done as general manager over the past seven-plus seasons during his conference call with reporters Tuesday.
“On basketball, I think we all know there’s great debate about decisions made in the past eight years and in particular the past five years not making the playoffs,” Leiweke said. “There’s accountability there. We need a new set of eyes and a new thinking towards how we from a basketball standpoint go forward.”
Although Leiweke said the team isn’t good enough, Colangelo said he doesn’t view his tenure as a failure by any stretch. He pointed to the difficulty in rebuilding after the loss of Chris Bosh and talked about the strides the team has made toward becoming a playoff contender. Expressing a desire to be a part of the success the team is building toward moving forward, it’s clear Colangelo would like to have a general manager come in who would want to consult with him and use his opinions.
“Whatever the basketball topic is, hopefully I will be asked my opinion,” Colangelo said. “I will give my opinion, I’ve never been shy to give an opinion, I’ve never been shy to make a decision, but that decision will now rest on somebody else and how much weight in the room that opinion will have is really going to depend on who the individual is.”
If there was any doubt that Leiweke was a straight shooter it was eliminated when he summed up the challenge that lay ahead for Colangelo as he steps into a new role.
“Bryan’s going to have to occasionally take a deep breath and understand now that a GM is going to have a direct report and final say-so on basketball decisions,” Leiweke said. “He’s going to have to live with that. And I hope he can. Because if he can’t, I’m fairly certain we’re not going to fire the Toronto Raptors.”
Acknowledging that this wasn’t the ideal outcome he had been hoping for, Colangelo also brushed aside the idea that he is ticked off with Leiweke, something Leiweke told reporters during his conference call.
“I’m not ticked off. I think more than anything I’m a little disappointed,” Colangelo said. “I’m disappointed that I’m not going to be able see this thing through with respect to final decision-making.”
The organization now has set its sights on the 2016 All-Star Game and called it a “must have.” He also stressed the importance of growing the game in Canada and strengthening the bond between the Toronto Raptors and Canada Basketball.
These are both areas where Colangelo will guide and assist the organization. Leiweke also talked about the possibility of constructing a new training centre and the importance of changing the perception of Toronto, starting with those within the organization.
“We have work to do in this organization,” Leiweke said. “We’re not good enough. I believe Bryan can help in a lot of those areas. I still respect his opinion, his knowledge, his experience and his relationships in basketball. I think it’s a wealth of information and I don’t just want to throw it away. I want him to continue to be involved in giving us input and direction there
During his tenure as general manager of the Raptors, one of the biggest criticisms of Colangelo was his inability to wait things out and not make moves when they were available. Not being gun-shy with respect to taking the gamble can often be a good thing, but the gamble has to be the right one. After too many gambles that didn’t pay off by way of playoff appearances, it appears Colangelo understands he is still around, but no longer the one calling the shots. Even if it’ll take time to get used to this shift.