Raps slam dunk GM

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

Glen Grunwald's reign of error is over. Ending weeks of speculation that he was on his way out, Grunwald was let go yesterday as senior vice-president and general manager of the Toronto Raptors, and an immediate search is under way for a replacement.

Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., told a news conference yesterday that the decision not to renew Grunwald's contract, which expires on June 30, was a difficult one to make.

"Glen Grunwald is as fine an individual as you could ever hope to meet," Peddie said. "But this decision was made because we feel it is time for a fresh new perspective to take our basketball organization to a higher level."

Grunwald expressed disappointment with the move, but refused to lash out at the organization.

Instead, he thanked everyone with the team, as well as the fans and his family.

"I've always felt the fan support for me in a deeply personal way and I'll always be thankful," Grunwald said.

TWO FEUDED

Team consultant Jack McCloskey has been appointed interim GM but will not be considered for the permanent spot.

Speculation began in earnest weeks ago that either Grunwald or head coach Kevin O'Neill would be fired before the season ended. The two have feuded and the team is on a five- game losing streak and will likely not make the playoffs.

Grunwald defended his performance as the team's GM, which began on Nov. 20, 1997.

In the early going, the former Indiana University star did well, guiding the Raps out of the depths of a 16-66 season in 1997-98 and leading them to three post-season appearances.

TEAM FALLING

The last few years, however, Grunwald's decision-making, both from the point of view of the draft and free agent market, had repeatedly come into question.

And with the team falling to 30-44 so far this season, it appeared only a matter of time before he was fired.

It is speculated now that O'Neill, who has one more year left on his contract, will be given his walking papers next, although Peddie insisted that the new GM will make the final decisions on team personnel. Grunwald will remain with the team for now in an advisory capacity.

"I appreciate the opportunity he gave me," O'Neill said yesterday of Grunwald. "And I wish him all the best."


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