Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Raptors kick Colangelo upstairs

Turfed as GM, keeps job as president

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TORONTO -- Bryan Colangelo fought "like heck" to stay on as president and general manager of the Toronto Raptors.

It was enough to save one of his jobs.

The Raptors announced Tuesday that they will not pick up the option year on Colangelo's contract as general manager. However, the team is extending Colangelo's term as president and he will report directly to Tim Leiweke, the new CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

While Colangelo will still be available to the new general manager for guidance and input, Leiweke made it quite clear that somebody else will have the final say on the team's day-to-day basketball operations.

"Do I understand that's going to tax Bryan a little bit? One hundred per cent," Leiweke said on a conference call Tuesday. "But I think given the circumstances we found ourselves in, the timing of the decision ... and given his choices, I believe it is in everyone's best interest to make this work.

"There's no probably, (Bryan's) ticked off at me. This isn't his perfect world either. But to his credit he accepts it."

Leiweke is conducting a search for a new GM, with input from Colangelo. The team hopes to appoint the GM, who will have "final authority on all basketball-related decisions," within the next 30 days.

"I know there's been huge debate about whether Bryan has the wherewithal to step aside and allow the GM to do their job and make the final decisions," Leiweke said. "He clearly understands that's the way it's going to be.

"Does Bryan think at the end of the day he could have done this in the current situation of being the president and GM? Yes. If he didn't, I wouldn't want him in the organization. Did he fight like heck to preserve that? Yes, he did."

There have been reports the Raptors are targeting Denver GM Masai Ujiri, who worked under Colangelo as Toronto's assistant GM from 2008 to 2010.

Leiweke wouldn't tip his hand as to who the targeted candidates are, only to say that Raptors assistant GM Ed Stefanski is on the shortlist.

The Raptors say Colangelo will continue to advise Leiweke on basketball-related matters while also broadening his involvement with the business side of the franchise.

While Colangelo admitted to being disappointed, he said he wasn't "ticked" at Leiweke.

"I'm disappointed that I'm not going to be able to see this thing through with respect to final decision-making," Colangelo said on a conference call Tuesday. "But I'm thrilled and excited to be putting the finishing touches on a team that I think is well on its way to being competitive, being a playoff team and ultimately striving for our goal of winning championships."

Leiweke said he will be relying on Colangelo to help with basketball decisions while the search for a new GM continues. For example, Colangelo will represent the Raptors at Tuesday's draft lottery. But Leiweke said there will be a moratorium on major decisions, such as the future of head coach Dwane Casey, until the new GM is in place.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 22, 2013 C6

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