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  Sat, April 3, 2004


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New GM has a tough job
By BILL HARRIS, TORONTO SUN

Don't get defensive about this, Canada. It's analysis, not criticism. It's an observation, not an excuse. As the dust settled after Glen Grunwald was fired as general manager of the Raptors on Thursday, an NBA observer made an interesting point in a chat with yours truly.

"I don't think anyone ever really appreciated the challenges Glen faced as the GM of the only NBA team located outside the United States," the observer said.

ABSOLUTION

If you're a Grunwald-hater who believes he should have been fired long ago, you probably are rolling your eyes by now. But this is not about absolution.

And we are not talking merely about a U.S.-born basketball player's horror when he arrives in Toronto, flicks on his TV and instead of ESPN he sees AHL hockey highlights and skins-game curling. Or the fact that the first and the last thing an American player experiences upon a visit to Canada is customs.

The Raptors are part of the NBA family, but in some ways they are like a second-cousin with a bad haircut. The same blood but a slightly different look.

And when you know you are different, that can lead to insecurity. And insecurity leads to hasty decision-making.

Looking back on Grunwald's 61/2-year reign, the majority of his trades were passable, but the vast majority of his signings were disastrous.

He overpaid. He panicked.

True, he was being paid to be smarter than that. As one of 29 general managers in the NBA, he was expected to be one of the 29 brightest basketball men in the world. But the point we're trying to make is that it might not have been as easy as it looked, with a hoops-dumb hierarchy breathing down his neck to get something done.

Will the work conditions be any different for the new guy?

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., which owns the Raptors and the Maple Leafs, is a unique place to ply your trade if you're on the basketball side of the operation.

Overall, the company has two main objectives. First, to make as much money as possible and, second, if it's convenient, to win the Stanley Cup.

Lip-service is given to NBA championships, but success in that realm is not a burning desire. It's like saying, "I'd like to lose weight someday."

It's a nice dream to have as you sit on the couch eating chips.

The MLSEL offices are fairly bereft of basketball savvy. Removing Grunwald and replacing him with a new GM will provide a new set of eyes, but it's the organization as a whole that needs to adjust its vision -- by adding a number of knowledgeable individuals, not just one -- if on-court progress ever is to be made.

Who knows?

The new GM of the Raptors might be an unqualified success from the moment he tears down all that annoying Indiana Hoosiers paraphernalia from the walls of what used to be Grunwald's office. Maybe the next Jerry West is out there and the Raptors will find him by covering their eyes and throwing a dart at a map of North America, in much the same manner as the Bay City Rollers got their name.

But the odds are there will be times when the new GM stumbles into mistakes because of the same pressures and issues and insecurities that wore down Grunwald.

INSULTS

We all are familiar with political parties that have all the answers when they're sitting in opposition and lobbing insults. Then that party wins an election and suddenly it doesn't seem so different, or so brilliant.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

Running the Raptors in this hockey-centric Canadian culture is a difficult endeavour.

It'll take someone with the tough resolve of a Mark Messier ... oops, make that Bill Russell.









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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