Raps play down big rift

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- Reports that a major feud has developed between Raptors coach Kevin O'Neill and general manager Glen Grunwald have heated to the point where upper management has jumped into the fray. "I've heard those rumours," Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sport & Entertainment Ltd., said yesterday. "But I talk to Kevin quite often and I've met him one-on-one and he never has gone on about Glen in my presence. And I know he has had lunch with (MLSE chairman) Larry Tanenbaum recently and the issue of (clashing with) Glen was never brought up."

Grunwald is supposedly upset with O'Neill for going behind his back to complain about roster moves -- or lack thereof -- by the GM in recent days.

According to published reports, O'Neill was upset over Grunwald's decision a couple of weeks ago to waive forward Lonny Baxter. O'Neill also supposedly pushed Grunwald to make a move to get Cliff Robinson from the Golden State Warriors.

A source also indicated that O'Neill is "manoeuvring" to have management not grant Grunwald a contract extension after this season. Grunwald is in the final year of his deal and is expected to get an extension.

Peddie, however, denies O'Neill has been stirring up the pot or has gone over Grunwald's head to complain.

"If he's going over Glen's head you can't go over his head any higher than (myself and Tanenbaum)," Peddie said. "Listen, you're not always going to get along. No GM and coach entirely gets along. There will always be conflict, but conflict is energy. I don't always see eye-to-eye with everyone either. Clashing goes on normally between all levels of management. If everyone all thinks and speaks alike, it would probably make the organization redundant."

Reached last night, O'Neill insisted that he and Grunwald were working together productively and were not feuding.

"Absolutely not," he said. "I feel very comfortable (with our working relationship)."

O'Neill also denied that he was, in any way, attempting to have management not grant Grunwald a contract extension.

"There's no way I could do that," he said.

"I just coach the team."

Peddie did acknowledge that the situation in the front office, and on the court, is not all peaches and cream these days with the team puttering along at 27-36.

"When a team is underperforming, it puts stress on all relationships," he said.


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