No, this won’t be awkward. Not at all.
Bryan Colangelo is going to stick around as the Toronto Raptors president but will no longer hold the title of general manager. That job, hierarchically the lesser of Colangelo’s two roles over the past seven years, will go to a person still to be hired by Tim Leiweke, the new CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
A person who will have autonomy over basketball decisions and not be beholden to Colangelo, we are told, no matter how much he strains at the leash.
“It’s a unique situation for me to be in, but not an ideal one,” said Colangelo, whose roots and passion for NBA front office work have sprung from basketball operations, given his GM job with the Phoenix Suns for 11 seasons before signing on with the Raptors in February 2006.
In a teleconference call with reporters, Colangelo also said: “It’s being portrayed as a non-basketball job, but we’re in the basketball business.”
Well, there’s always the possibility that it could become a non-job.
Leiweke made that pretty clear when delineating the respective spheres of influence for the semi-defrocked Colangelo in his new role on the business side of the franchise and whoever it is — Denver’s newly minted Executive of the Year winner Masai Ujiri is reported to be a leading candidate, if the Nuggets allow Leiweke to woo him — winds up making the basketball calls.
After all, Colangelo, 47, has been doing that for the past seven seasons and all Toronto has to show for it are two first-round eliminations (2007, ’08) and, since then, a record 90 games under .500 and three different coaches in five years.
Leiweke was unflinching in telling the media in a separate media call prior to Colangelo’s that there will be no blurring of the lines, in terms of duties, responsibilities and authority. Colangelo can suggest, but he can no longer decide. All the big stuff, all the basketball stuff, will be the new GM’s domain, from Dwane Casey‘s future as coach to scouting priorities.
“Bryan’s going to have to occasionally take a deep breath and understand now that a GM is going to have a direct report [to me] and final say-so on all basketball decisions,” Leiweke said. “He’s going to have to live with that. And I hope he can. Because if he can’t, I’m fairly certain we’re not going to fire the Toronto Raptors.”
There also was a question about Colangelo being free to pursue another basketball job. Leiweke’s stance was evident in the quick and simple way he said: “Yes.”
Because Leiweke – a longtime executive with sports and entertainment conglomerate AEG — has his roots in the business and marketing side of pro sports, it’s not likely Colangelo will get his brain picked on branding and sponsorship decisions, either.
Now, as someone to send to Flin Flon or Labrador City to raise the Raptors’ profile as “Canada’s NBA team” on an offseason promotional caravan, sure. But it didn’t take much reading-between-the-lines of Leiweke’s platitudes about Colangelo’s performance in his dual role to see this as a warehousing.
Good soldier. Good citizen of Toronto. Ugh. Was this a redeployment or a eulogy?
“I don’t believe I’m being pushed off into a corner somewhere,” Colangelo said. “I think I’m going to be used in a fashion that my 18 years of experience is going to be tapped into, not just by Tim but by the new GM.”
Good for Colangelo. But odds are, MLSE has just turned “team president” into one of those “assistant to the assistant manager” positions fit for Dunder-Mifflin, a job from which one seeks one’s next job.