Extinction!

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

In the end, the leaks, the unnamed sources and the nasty finger-pointers saw their accusatory fingers pointed right back at them. This wasn't the firing they had counted on. Instead their verbal guns backfired and shot their own man.

The unidentified voices of despair didn't get coach Kevin O'Neill, although that will happen soon enough. But the huffing and puffing from Raptorland meant Glen Grunwald was finally put out of his general manager misery yesterday, his lame-duck status suddenly very real.

That wasn't what the whistle blowers had in mind when they spewed all kinds of character assassination to The Globe and Mail last week. But it was just the kind of noise that caught the attention of the corporate being that is Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., an oddly timed response to quiet the turmoil.

Should Grunwald have been fired?

Absolutely.

Is the timing strange?

Absolutely.

But as usual, MLSEL leaves as many questions unanswered as it answered with the surprising dismissal yesterday. The basketball operation has been pencil thin and the scouting staff overmatched for most of Grunwald's time in office.

Now, as the season plays its way out, and they are less then three months away from the draft in which the Raptors should have an early pick, they ostensibly have no boss, have the same semi-competent scouts that did Grunwald no favours, and I hope to hell CEO Richard Peddie was lying yesterday when he said he was in no rush to replace interim GM Jack McCloskey before the draft.

He had better be in a rush.

He needs to have a GM in place long before then if he wants to maintain a) his own shrinking credibility; b) position the franchise to take advantage of its potential lottery position; c) find the right coach assuming that the despised O'Neill will be let go upon the hiring of a new boss.

Peddie can't afford to do one of those summer-long John Ferguson Jr.-type, interview-the-world searches without putting the team in more competitive peril than it already is. But then, there are those who wonder whether Peddie will even be in his position by the time of the NBA draft.

That's what makes this manoeuvring even more confusing than it already is. Grunwald is out. O'Neill is hanging on a cliff and losing his grip. Peddie has lost the favour of some of his board of director friends and hasn't helped himself as the Raptors season has gone down in ruins.

A second consecutive first-round playoff exit by the Maple Leafs could trigger the activation of the severance clause in Peddie's contract.

The bottom line, though, was that Grunwald had to go. He had outlasted his best-before date. He inherited a mess when he became general manager almost seven years ago and leaves one behind today.

In between there were some moments worth remembering, some moments and some seasons and some acquisitions worthy of praise. But the decision to not renew his contract and cut ties with him now didn't come as the result of a season gone wrong.

It was a response to all the back-biting and not-so-quiet in-house feuding. It was a response to a public losing faith in a team it thought more of. It was more about making a statement that it was about fixing a problem.

If it was about only results, it would have happened three months ago.

Now, it's Peddie's responsibility to find the right franchise builder. John Ferguson aside, it's hard to believe he is the right man for this responsibility.

Hard to believe in anything about the Raptors anymore.


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