A man with a plan

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

The courting of Bryan Colangelo actually began almost two calendar years before he arrived in Toronto.

It is a little known story, told by few.

Looking for a general manager to replace Glen Grunwald, the forever maligned Richard Peddie made a phone call to Phoenix. He asked Colangelo if he had any interest in working for the Raptors. He asked the question seriously.

"It was more of a feeler kind of call," said Colangelo yesterday, relating the story. "They were in the process of seeking a replacement for Glen. I basically told them I was flattered by the mere suggestion but I wasn't in a position to make the move.

"Literally, I had just come to an agreement with the new ownership group in Phoenix and I told (Richard) I felt like I owned it the owner and my father, Jerry, to make sure the transition went smoothly and to see this thing through."

Needless to say, the transition didn't go so smoothly and the Raptors and Toronto have been the benefactors. Needless to say, the next time the Raptors called -- this time it was board chairman Larry Tanenbaum wondering if Colangelo was interested in leaving a first-place team for a last-place team -- the answer, stunningly, turned out to be yes.

That was about 360 days ago, maybe the best promising, most intriguing, most energized and most believable 360 days in Raptors history.

There is something about Colangelo that makes you want to believe.

He is Pat Gillick with bravado, a high collar and a tie, somewhat lecturing but self-assured, and with ridiculously similar memory.

There is something about Colangelo that makes you believe.

He sneers at convention. He sets his own agenda. He follows no one. Winning now, making the playoffs this year, advancing beyond anyone's expectations are just baby steps for him.

He was probably thinking HD television about the time he was watching cartoons on his his first black and white set.

The phone calls came in after he accepted the Raptors job a year ago next Wednesday.

The phone calls that began with: "Are you insane?"

Two years earlier, after Colangelo said no, after others of dissimilar pedigree said no, the Raptors settled poorly for Rob Babcock. The way the Leafs settled for John Ferguson and his ability to build middle-of-the-road hockey teams. It was inexpensive and unproductive.

The Colangelo hiring, listening to Colangelo, tracking his moves, makes the Ferguson-run 'Let's make the playoffs and see what happens' Leafs seem all the more inept.

"You know, I was intrigued from the beginning," which tells you something about Colangelo's mind.

The Suns seemed headed for a championship.

The Raptors seemed on the road to obscurity.

He chose, in his own words, to work from the blank canvas.

"My first reaction (when they approached me) was one of interest," Colangelo said. "I was somewhat curious, somewhat excited.

"There was a realization on my part that it was only a matter of when I left (Phoenix) instead of if I left. I decided it was time to leave. Better on my terms instead of someone else's terms."

He admits the deal interim GM Wayne Embry made, sending Jalen Rose to New York, has made his life easier.

"That cleaned the slate for us," Colangelo said. "Whether it gave us the ability to acquire Rasho (Nesterovic) or T.J. Ford, we could leverage some productive pieces to acquire new assets.

"Now we've moved forward to where we have a core of players who are 21, 22, 23 years old with (Andrea) Bargnani, (Chris) Bosh and Ford -- a good core under contract for the next three years. The first step, the logical step, is to make the playoffs.

"The single biggest thing we can focus on is the development of that core. Let them grow from the experience of this year, let them learn together, let them learn from a playoff run, let them learn from the experience of a potential playoff berth. And then, we'll see."

It's about next year and the year after and the year after that.

This is just the beginning. Bryan Colangelo has trouble sitting still, too restless to enjoy today while working for tomorrow.

His mind racing, forever racing.


Photos