Raptors' hole just gets deeperBill Harris thinks the Raptors dropped the ball when the club's true power brokers did not personally handle the firing of Kevin O'Neill
By BILL HARRIS, TORONTO SUN
WHERE WAS Richard Peddie? Where was Larry Tanenbaum? The Raptors made a clumsy attempt at damage control yesterday, but far too much damage already had been done for anything to be controlled. It was like throwing a cup of cool water at a billowing brushfire.
Kevin O'Neill was fired as coach of the Raptors, which came as a shock to absolutely no one, O'Neill included.
"Jack McCloskey (Raptors interim general manager) was supposed to be in Washington, so when I saw him and he was wearing a suit and tie, I knew what was up," O'Neill said.
WRITING ON THE WALL
McCloskey is a long-time team consultant who has been involved with the day-to-day operation for less than a month, so the fact he had to deliver the news to O'Neill was bad enough. But then McCloskey actually had to conduct a media conference and answer questions about a situation with which he could be only vaguely familiar.
Was this about O'Neill's coaching or his off-court behaviour?
"I wasn't here throughout the season very often, so I don't know about those off-court situations," McCloskey said.
Well, that settles that.
Putting the engaging, 78-year-old McCloskey in the hotseat yesterday to answer for the organization's self-admitted mistake in hiring O'Neill was akin to cruel and unusual punishment. Tanenbaum, the chairman of the board and a minority owner at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Ltd., doesn't often get involved in these public things. But whatever positive or negative can be said about Peddie, the company's president and CEO, he usually is not shy about making uncomfortable announcements himself.
"(Peddie) has a hockey game tonight, I know," said McCloskey, referring to the Leafs-Ottawa Senators playoff game. McCloskey was kidding, but his joke stabbed at the heart of MLSEL more accurately than he knew.
Anyway, it was fairly easy to deduce what the Raptors' hierarchy was thinking yesterday.
At a season-ending media conference a day earlier, McCloskey understandably faltered when asked to explain who has the final say on the hiring of a new full-time GM. Is it McCloskey's call? Peddie's call? Tanenbaum's call? Do all three have to agree? Who has more of a say, Peddie or Tanenbaum? What role does the board of directors play? If a tree falls in the forest and nobody's there, does it make a sound?
So after that line of questioning produced no clear answers, somebody decided yesterday that because McCloskey currently holds the formal title of general manager, the professional thing to do would be to have McCloskey handle the announcement of O'Neill's dismissal. Technically it made sense, but realistically it bordered on contemptuous.
"I'm it, that's all you get," McCloskey said with a smile.
It just wasn't right.
McCloskey even tried to do some damage control on behalf of O'Neill. At his own season-ending media conference on Thursday, O'Neill hastened his departure by going on a rant, accusing the Raptors of not being committed to winning. McCloskey claimed O'Neill later had indicated he was "sorry" for those remarks and that he had "screwed up," but when O'Neill met reporters on his own yesterday he wasn't quite so contrite.
"A lot of the comments I made were out of frustration," O'Neill said. "But if being dedicated to winning is abrasive, I'm abrasive."
All things considered, it was an abrasive two days for the Raptors' battered image.
At the very least, either Peddie or Tanenbaum should have been at centre stage yesterday, in addition to being seated near centre ice.