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Bryan Colangelo Steps Down as President

Bryan Colangelo has stepped down as the whatever-he-was for the Toronto Raptors.

In perhaps the least surprising piece of news of all time, Bryan Colangelo has stepped down as the President of the Toronto Raptors organization.

Make no mistake, this is far closer to a Richard Nixon presidential resignation than any real voluntary action. Word is that he’ll remain with the organization in a consultancy position, though this is nothing more than further window-dressing to what was clear at the start of the offseason – Colangelo was fired by the Raptors, just in a really friendly way.

CBC Sports brings us the relevant Colangelo quote from the press release:

“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 the release.

“I would like to personally thank Larry Tanenbaum, Dale Lastman, MLSE’s ownership and family and the wonderful people of Toronto for the opportunity to serve them over the last seven years. The support, kindness and adulation that has been displayed to me and my family has been overwhelming, and our friendships and experiences will last a lifetime.”

Ken Berger of CBS gives us this nugget of inside information on the relationship between Colangelo and the organization since Tim Leiweke took over the reigns:

A league source told that Colangelo was at odds with Tim Leiweke, who was named named president and CEO of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment in April. In his statement released by the team, Colangelo mentioned directors Larry Tanenbaum and Dale Lastman, as well as MLSE ownership, but did not mention Leiweke by name.

And then we have some twitterings:

Yup, I just embedded my own tweet. Gotta get that follower count up.

Anyway, as I mentioned, this move is not at all a surprise.

As Kinnon points out over at Raptors HQ, the benefit here is that the Raptors organization now has a clear hierarchy, which wasn’t really the case before this move.

MLSE Head – Tim Leiweke
Raptors GM – Masai Ujiri
Raptors Coach – Dwane Casey
Consultants (real) – Wayne Embry
Consultants (in name only, until they find another job) – Bryan Colangelo

So there you go, skeptics, Colangelo will no longer have anything resembling a fingerprint on this organization. Moving forward, it’s Ujiri at the helm making all of the decisions, emboldened by a sizable contract and the support of Leiweke (who’s probably going to be too busy trading for goalies the Leafs don’t need to pay the Raptors much attention once Ujiri gets going).

For some perspective, Colangelo joined the Raptors in February of 2006, winning the NBA Executive of the Year Award in 2007 and never again sniffing success with the franchise, being removed from his General manager role in may of this year.

Among Colangelo’s blunders was the drafting of Andrea Bargnani first overall in the 2006 NBA Draft, a move that was a roll of the dice that didn’t pay off and one that has followed him around like an albatross since. That situation wasn’t made any better when in July of 2009, Colangelo doubled down on his bet by giving Bargnani a five-year, $50M contract that immediately looked like a mistake.

Beyond Bargnani, Colangelo also showed impatience in rebuilding the team the proper way, first failing to recognize the team’s 2006-07 Atlantic Division title was a bit of a fluke, and then trying to save his job by dealing for Rudy Gay this season. He traded away first round picks multiple times (for Jermaine O’Neal, for Kyle Lowry) and went through three coaches, the maximum allowed for just about any GM. And he gave terrible contracts to Jason Kapono and Hedo Turkoglu while overpaying Landry Fields in a failed play at Steve Nash this past summer.

He also handled the Chris Bosh situation terribly, assuming Bosh would stay for extra cash and failing to get anything in return for him when he bolted for the Miami Heat with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. This type of thing happens, I suppose, but Colangelo clearly misread Bosh’s intentions, leaving the Raptors with Bargnani, a 21-year old DeMar DeRozan and little else to build with, resulting in an 18-win drop and a fall back into irrelevance.

All of Colangelo’s moves weren’t bad, though, and except with Bagrnani he showed a willingness to move on from mistakes and shake things up. He did a fine job identifying undervalued talent like Kris Humphries, Carlos Delfino, Jorge Garbajosa and Anthony Parker, acquiring them for little in the way of assets. He certainly has some knack for scouting the international game and will probably find a type of figurehead job with USA Basketball or heading up an international scouting team.

Colangelo probably won’t be unemployed for all that long – his dad, Jerry Colangelo, is a well thought of and highly tied-in basketball mind, plus the younger Colangelo has hardware on his mantle, which carries weight. He also has the type of demeanor and delivery that could help him sell snow to an Eskimo, so it’s easy to envision him convincing another organization that the Raptors’ misfortunes were largely beyond his control.

Look, I didn’t hate Colangelo. He was somewhat entertaining, very outspoken and had a good idea for the business side of the operation. I also liked that he was aggressive and unapologetic, traits that are generally necessary for success in the sports industry where you’re always under a microscope.

But in basketball terms, Colangelo just wasn’t that good. He seemed like someone playing NBA 2K, becoming enamored with rebuilds but then overestimating his own abilities and jumping all-in when a player who might be fun to play with became available. His constant mis-reading of the free agent market, the value of his own players, and the intention of those around the organization were his undoing, and they’re largely laughable in retrospect.

I wish I could say it was a fun seven years, but it wasn’t. It was almost always frustrating, usually confusing and rarely anything to get excited about, at least in the last half decade. I wish Colangelo the best because, like I said, I don’t dislike him, just his moves, but the Raptors’ organization is better off today than they were yesterday.

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