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  Tue, March 30, 2004


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Raptors emitting a most foul odour

By STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

Before the noise, the headlines and the unnamed sources, Kevin O'Neill knew he wasn't likely to be back for a second season coaching the Raptors.

He felt it almost a month ago.

O'Neill had all but agreed to rent a downtown condominium for next season when he told the condo owner he was backing out because of his uncertain status.

He had a sense then what was coming. He just didn't know in what form and probably had no idea how public or nasty it would all become.

The odour that surrounds the Raptors' daily byplay of back-stabbing innuendo is more putrid than the team's won-loss record in a conference of the semi-competent. The setup to discredit O'Neill -- whomever's voice-prints can be matched to the faceless quotes -- was deliberate and possibly even planned.

Some of that information doesn't get out unless people on the inside want it to get out.

The question is: Who are the people on the inside and who exactly wants O'Neill gone?

This is as much a game of Clue as it is a whodunit.

CLASS

Only you won't find Glen Grunwald playing the part of Col. Mustard in the living room with a knife. He has too much class to the be the leak here. It isn't his style, although if anyone has a legitimate bone to pick with O'Neill, it might well be the lame-duck general manager of the Raptors.

O'Neill's largest problem, aside from the lack of a centre and point guard this season, has been his own politics.

He isn't smooth. He isn't suave. He swears and breaks lamps and probably didn't graduate with honours from Emily Post.

And, yes, as he points out, injuring his own defence in the process, he isn't under any felony investigations.

But all that might have been fine had he not publicly and privately questioned the talent on his roster. That's not only bad form but inappropriate for a rookie coach to not-so-subtly jab at his immediate supervisor, usurping some of the credibility from the man who apparently hired him.

Apparently is the correct way to preface the hiring of O'Neill.

Some will tell you that Grunwald didn't necessarily choose the coach as much as CEO Richard Peddie did.

But O'Neill is exactly what he was advertised to be. If that doesn't fit the mould now you have to ask: Why hire him in the first place?

But here's where this story gets even more odd than it already is.

Peddie's contract is up at the end of the season. His relationship with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. chairman Larry Tanenbaum has been rather icy over the past months.

There have been rumours about him being replaced, possibly by former Blue Jays boss Paul Beeston, who would bring a common sense to MLSEL that doesn't currently exist.

Grunwald's contract is also up. He is the Raymond of the Raptors: Everybody likes him. It's his record and his roster they don't like. He has to be replaced or reassigned. That should no longer be an issue.

The only player in this Basketball Bermuda Triangle, where everyone may disappear, to have a contract for next season is O'Neill and right now he seems the most disposable of the three, even though coaching may be the least of the Raptors' significant problems.

So Peddie might be gone. And Grunwald might be gone. And O'Neill might be gone. Or one will be gone. Or two.

Don't assume anything here.

After all, these are the Raptors we're talking about.

Which doesn't answer a litany of significant questions, beginning with: Who orchestrated the intentional leaks that assassinated some of O'Neill's brash character and surmised that star Vince Carter would ask for a trade should O'Neill return?

Where did that come from, even though Carter made the obligatory denial? And where did the rest of the O'Neill smear campaign originate?

SOURCES

Was it a front-office employee? Another coach? Was it a front-office wife? Was it a players' mother? Was it a player agent?

Was it all or the above or none of the above?

Only the sources, and they know who they are, know for certain what their game is all about.

What nobody seems to know is who ends up winning and losing in the end.









Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


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