The Raptors are still foundering, so general manager Rob Babcock was forced to walk the plank yesterday.
After less than two years of service, Babcock was relieved of his duties yesterday morning and replaced by the club's senior basketball adviser Wayne Embry on an interim basis.
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. president Richard Peddie pulled the trigger after meeting with Embry and the MLSEL board and announced that the team would begin an immediate search for a replacement.
Peddie added that in order to attract the best man possible, Babcock's replacement likely would be offered the position of GM and president of basketball operations.
"This was a tough decision, but one that we feel is in our best long-term interests," said Peddie, who was instrumental in hiring Babcock on June 7, 2004. "It's time to bring in someone with proven experience to take us to the next level.
"From a team perspective, making this move better positions us as we look toward the trade deadline (Feb. 23) and then the draft this spring. We also feel that in moving Wayne into the role as (interim GM) we will better able to develop Sam Mitchell's growth toward being a very good NBA coach during the second half of the season."
There had been reports this season that Babcock and Mitchell had not been getting along, and that Babcock's dismissal yesterday was, in reality, Mitchell winning a power struggle between the two, even though Peddie and Babcock both denied that.
Still, the timing of the dismissal is somewhat bizarre. During his tumultuous period as GM, Babcock was most criticized for two moves he made during his rookie season as GM, the drafting of centre Rafael Araujo with the No. 8 overall pick in 2004 and the Vince Carter trade last season.
Babcock survived the 2004-05 campaign and appeared to be turning the corner as a GM, receiving praise for his Rafer Alston for Mike James trade, for his drafting of forwards Charlie Villanueva and Joey Graham and his free-agent signing of Spanish point guard Jose Calderon.
Peddie acknowledged yesterday that the organization remains high on Babcock's basic plan, but added that the team needs more of a leader at this point. The 14-29 Raptors have not made the playoffs for four season and likely will miss the post-season again this year.
For his part, Babcock was disappointed with the move, but was very gracious toward the organization and the city.
"I felt we were going in the right direction," he said. "And I felt very good about what we were doing and I was very optimistic and excited about the future with the (two first round) draft picks coming up and the cap flexibility (this summer), to be able to have mid-level exception player and I was very excited about our young draft picks (in Europe), Roko Ukic and Uros Slokar."