Colangelo remains confident despite MLSE upheaval: Kelly
Ahead of Wednesday’s press conference, Tom Anselmi gave Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo the head’s up – there would be a second house cleaning in as many days at an MLSE franchise.
“I was surprised, but I think I was surprised in the same way everybody else was surprised, the same way Dave Nonis and Brian Burke were surprised,” Colangelo said before Wednesday night’s game against Philadelphia.
When they start clearing out cubicles at any business, a tremor goes through the herd.
If Colangelo’s worried about showing up at the office to find his desktop photos piled in a cardboard box, it doesn’t show. He was stretched out courtside during pre-game, shaking hands, looking as relaxed as a new hire.
“I’ve learned you can never operate out of fear,” Colangelo said. “I am unaffected by this.”
His team added the punctuation, wrestling the somnambulant 76ers into submission in a 90-72 game. It was unwatchable stuff. Coming when there is unprecedented corporate interest in the product, all that mattered was the win.
Clearly, the suits who just got their hooks into this billion-dollar enterprise have begun asserting themselves. Meetings are being taken. Decisions are being made. None of those decisions — both sins of action and omission — make any sense.
You don’t hire a guy who’s still working at another construction site to build you a house, a la Ryan Nelsen, the new absentee coach not really overseeing Toronto FC.
And you don’t fire the chef 10minutes before dinner service, a la Burke.
A cabal of one per centers behaving like frustrated fans is now running the biggest sports empire in Canada. The only difference between them and you is a) tax bracket and b) you probably have more sense.
As bad as their calls have been to this point, lumping Colangelo into the sacking frenzy would be worse still.
Having kept faith with him this far, and given the emergence of Jonas Valanciunas, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Ed Davis this year, this string must be played out in order to be reasonably evaluated.
Yes, I can hear you screaming from here.
Please let Andrea Bargnani drift from your thoughts at this point. He’s drifted from everyone else’s at the ACC. You can’t put broken merchandise in the shop window. If you want to blame something for that, blame the floor at Portland’s Rose Garden.
Even accepting the permanent angst over Bargnani, common sense still dictates Colangelo should not be let go.
More to the point, he will not be. Certainly not yet.
The GM meets with the MLSE board three times a year. The key meeting comes in June, when he lays out his plan for the coming year. For what they’re worth, promises are made. Budgets are set.
Aside from exceeding his financial limits or replacing a head coach, Colangelo is empowered to independently make all basketball decisions after that point.
He meets with them again in October, to provide an update before the beginning of camp.
The last meeting comes in February, a mid-season check-in. That one is still weeks away.
It’s not the scheduled meetings that worry anyone. It’s the impromptu ones.
Colangelo ran his gauntlet through the board in mid-December, called up after a wretched start to the year to revisit the vision. The club’s sober second thinker, Wayne Embry, was called in from Arizona to attend. It was a ‘Make us believe’ moment.
And Colangelo is still here.
He received another gesture of public support — whatever those are worth these days — from the board’s point man, Anselmi, Wednesday.
“Bryan and his team are also in the midst of a building process,” Anselmi told the audience at Burke’s auto da fe. “As long as we continue to see progress, that’s what we want in the process.”
Colangelo is in the last year of his three-year deal, with a team option for a further year in 2013-14. That’s still up in the air.
“I’ve never brought up my situation (to ownership). It’s never been brought up to me,” Colangelo said, shrugging.
What’s the promise going forward? Colangelo isn’t offering one.
“A successful year would be making sure we take another step forward in the process of building a basketball team.”
The opaque nature of that statement gives you some idea why Bryan Colangelo has a job, and why Brian Burke is looking for one.
They like saying sports is a results business. That’s not true. There’s no business that has a higher tolerance for failure. What it is, is a messaging business. Colangelo’s signal talent as an executive is the ability to explain what he’s doing in a way that makes sense.
Out in the real world, where results actually matter, they wait to see how something’s turned out before they decide whether it works or not.
If it made sense to trust Colangelo to begin a three-year plan, it makes sense to let him get through all three years of it. April is the time for evaluations.
That’s how Colangelo explained it. That’s what MLSE’s Star Chamber is going to allow him to do.
‘We were one for three,’ the board will be saying to itself in a little bit. ‘Maybe if we owned a baseball team ... ’