The Toronto Raptors, emboldened by the news that the Sacramento Kings apparently won't be moving to Seattle, have ramped up their pursuit of Phil Jackson to be their new team president, according to sources close to the situation.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Raptors -- now being run by former Los Angeles-based sports mogul Tim Leiweke -- regarded the Seattle group that was trying to buy the Kings as the biggest threat to preventing Jackson from seriously considering their pitch.
But now that the Kings appear poised to stay in Sacramento instead of being sold to the consortium led by Jackson fan Chris Hansen, sources say that the Raptors will be pursuing Jackson aggressively this week, believing that they rank as Jackson's most attractive current option for a new career in management now that he can reunite with Leiweke.
One source close to the situation told ESPN.com that Hansen and Jackson have "hit it off," sparking league-wide speculation that Jackson would be offered the chance to run the new Sonics in Seattle in the Pat Riley-style role he craves. But with a 12-owner committee recommending Monday that the Kings' move to Seattle be blocked, Toronto's seemingly long-shot odds of winning the Jackson sweepstakes would figure to have received a boost.
That's largely because of Jackson's longstanding friendship with Leiweke, who was introduced Friday as the new CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which oversees the NBA's Raptors, NHL's Maple Leafs and Toronto FC of Major League Soccer.
One source said that Leiweke's "vision and energy" and history of shared success at Staples Center with the 11-time championship coach ensures that Jackson will give the pitch strong consideration despite skepticism around the league about his willingness to relocate to Canada.
Amid its pursuit of Jackson in the wake of Leiweke's arrival, Raptors president Bryan Colangelo is scheduled to meet with the MLSE board next week in hopes of convincing his bosses to pick up the option year on his contract. The 2013-14 option in coach Dwane Casey's contract was picked up by Colangelo before this season, but Leiweke's arrival has thrown both of their futures into some immediate doubt.