TORONTO - The awkward summer of Bryan Colangelo continues, with all kinds of work to do, but no real sense of when there will be basketball again.
The obvious delay has meant there has been no urgency to make his next big move, the hiring of a high level executive for the Raptors, possibly someone with the title of general manager.
And while that may seem strange or confusing from the outside — that a recently rehired general manager under some contractual duress would be hiring someone of similar title so soon — that isn’t really the case at all.
“If anything has been misconstrued,” said Colangelo, “it’s not because it’s coming from me.”
This is coming from him: It has been Colangelo’s intention to make a major front office move since losing Masai Ujiri to the Denver Nuggets. The question was, who to hire and what title and responsibilities to give him?
Colangelo isn’t so much caught up in titles as he is in who does what
. If he’s president but no longer general manager in the future, no big deal. If he’s the president and GM and someone else holds another decision-making title, no big deal. His bottom line is finding an experienced NBA executive, someone who might have been a GM elsewhere, someone who might be ready to be a GM somewhere else, someone who can add to a front office that Colangelo believes needs to be enhanced. This is not unlike what Mike Babcock did in Detroit with the Red Wings coaching staff: He wanted to change his staff to hear new ideas and fresh ideas. Colangelo wants to do the same for his front office.
In the past, Jerry West had Mitch Kupchak in Los Angeles. Donnie Walsh had Larry Bird in Indianapolis. And in the present, in his own building, Brian Burke has Dave Nonis and Rick Dudley among others. Colangelo already has Maurizio Gherardini as his assistant and now Jay Triano in the front office but he wants an NBA lifer working alongside of him, and if it will take the general manager’s title to entice the right person to Toronto, so be it.
The phone interviews for the job have already taken place. The discussion with agents has been ongoing. In the coming weeks, there are planned face-to-face visits with candidates. Colangelo won’t mention who they are, won’t confirm or deny any of the names that have been mentioned in previous print reports. Among those who have been listed are high profile people such as Ed Stefanski, the current GM of the Philadelphia 76ers; Jeff Bower, the former GM of the New Orleans Hornets; Kevin Pritchard, the former GM of the Portland Trail Blazers and Dennis Lindsay, the vice-president and assistant GM of the San Antonio Spurs.
“I want a high level basketball guy,” said Colangelo, who hoped to do this right after Ujiri left for Denver. But the fact his own contractual status was in question late in the last season, put the search on hold.
Now all this is being done, slowly, methodically, with the backdrop of the NBA (shall we whisper the word) lockout. We’ll say it, essentially because Colangelo isn’t allowed to say it, discuss it, joke about it, opine on it. In David Stern’s tight-lipped NBA breaking those rules can be an expensive proposition. The normally careful Colangelo now walks on eggshells when you talk basketball with him.
He can talk about this but not that. He can answer this but not that. He can’t mention players’ names. He can’t really discuss tangible plans for the future, except in the big picture. He can tell you that he has been extremely busy meeting in various departments of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. “There’s lots to do,” he said. “There’s a lot more to this than watching basketball games and making decisions on players.”
So what do Raptors’ fans want to know:
1) Who will Colangelo be bringing in to enhance his front office? “I’m not going into names. I never have. I could give you a list of 10 guys I’ve spoken to, but I won’t do that. I have a vision for the role,” he said. “You’re constantly evolving in this business. I want someone to come in and look at things a little differently.”
2) Will there be an NBA season, a partial season, no season at all? He won’t touch that one so we will. Don’t bet on it happening.
3) Will the Raptors be prepared for the next NBA season, no matter what the new CBA particulars happen to be? This question is asked in light of the fact former Leaf GM John Ferguson contended he had Plan A, Plan B and Plan C ready when the last NHL lockout ended and when the horn went off he was found completely out of his league: The Leafs have yet to recover from their inability post the 2004-05 lockout lockout. “We are preparing for all types of scenarios under the auspices of whatever the (new) rules will be,” said Colangelo. “Would I like another set of eyes involved, another brain? Absolutely.
“We’ve done some significant things already. We have a new coach (Dwayne Casey) and a new coaching staff. We’re a young, developing team showing signs of promise. I see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
If only there were games to be played.