Colangelo, who refused comment on his contractual status, is proceeding the only way he can: As though he’ll be around beyond this season, even though he can’t say he will be.
“Looks dysfunctional,” is the way one rival NBA executive assessed Toronto’s current state of affairs.
“Cruel,” is how another NBA source termed it. Indeed, with the possibility of a lockout looming this summer, this figures to be a difficult off-season for out-of-work executives and coaches and scouts.
The future of the basketball leadership is far from the only unknown, of course. Peddie has announced his plans to retire at 2011’s end. And Teachers’ announced last month that it had retained a firm to round up potential buyers for its 66 per cent stake in Canada’s biggest sporting empire, which counts among its riches the Raptors, the Maple Leafs and the Air Canada Centre. While one understands the urge not to saddle a theoretical new ownership group with a newly re-signed hoops honcho, the sale is in its early throes and unlikely to be resolved imminently.
There are solid arguments for and against keeping Colangelo, and there’s something to be said for the fact that, with the NBA playoff tournament set to begin without a Canadian entrant for the third straight spring, the GM’s extension hasn’t been promptly rubber-stamped by an ownership group with a reputation for not paying enough attention to its sporting products. Still, if the pension plan was seriously considering cutting loose the GM, it should have begun seeking his replacement long ago. Sources say there is no such search in progress. And considering a critical draft looms in little more than two months, there’s a common-sense escape to the current morass.
Offering Colangelo a short-term extension — say, a two-year deal that’s only partially guaranteed — would be a logical course. In some ways it would be a humbling dose of reality for Colangelo to digest; it would be a prove-it-to-us contract for an NBA GM with two decades of experience who has twice been named the league’s executive of the year. But given the swirling circumstance, it’s hard to imagine Colangelo not agreeing to something of its sort. It wouldn’t hurt that Colangelo’s acceptance of such an agreement would surely come with a knowing handshake from Tanenbaum; a better deal could be in Colangelo’s near-term future, in other words, should the chairman, who holds first right of refusal on the Teachers’ shares, emerge from the pending sale tossing around more weight than his current 20.5 per cent stake allows.
It’s a workable solution that would hardly scare off a possible buyer of a billion-dollar-plus enterprise. And just as important, considering what we know about the clash of formidable egos and intellects that’s been taking place behind the scenes, it’s an endgame that would allow Silvestri to say without embellishment that he once threw some well-placed elbows in the cutthroat trenches of pro basketball, and that he made his impact felt.