December 19, 2007
Raptors GM: Bryan Colangelo
By STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media
Bryan Colangelo seems forever in a hurry. Ask him a question, and often he looks at his watch, as if he already is taking stock as to how much time he has to answer.
There is this meeting to get to. There is this phone call to make. There is an injury to update. There is a situation that requires his attention. His mind races -- about today, tomorrow and next year -- often at the very same time.
It is that obsessive personality, that non-stop energy, that so drives him to succeed as general manager of the Raptors. He is, what my mother used to call, a going concern. And he has been that for every day since he inherited a mess of a basketball operation in February of 2006 -- a job people told him he was crazy to take.
What has Colangelo meant to the Raptors? The better question: What hasn't he meant?
He has brought stability, creativity, intelligence, competitiveness, to a team that needed all that and so much more. He has turned a perpetual loser into a budding winner. And he has done so in non-traditional way, choosing to blaze his own trail rather than rely on the established way of building teams.
Basketball tradition says you don't trade a good big man for a good small man: Colangelo did. The deal for T.J. Ford, sending Charlie Villanueva to Milwaukee, has been one of his best.
Basketball tradition says you don't draft an unheralded Italian with the first pick in the draft: Going against conventional wisdom, Colangelo drafted Andrea Bargnani with the first pick in the 2006 draft.
Basketball tradition says you don't hire a European to be your assistant general manager: Colangelo hired Maurizio Gherardini, and the Raptors foray into Europe has been part of the club's success. The free agent signings of Anthony Parker and Jorge Garbajosa -- both reasonably on the cheap -- were moves Gherardini aided in.
It isn't that he won't do what's considered mainstream, but Colangelo -- unlike J.P. Ricciardi, unlike John Ferguson -- will surround himself with significant quality in the front office (not yes men), will listen to them, will work every angle possible, and then he will make the determination.
In a more reclusive kind of way, Pat Gillick operated similarly when he so successfully ran the Blue Jays. Few in this market have managed to do so in any meaningful way since.
Only three of the current Raptors players were on the roster when Colangelo took over in the winter of 2006. There was Chris Bosh to build around, there was Villanueva, and there was Joey Graham and Jose Calderon, two rookies who had shown very little in their opening campaigns.
Building around Bosh was a no-brainer. But finding someone to take Rafael Araujo and actually getting back a live body in Kris Humphries -- that's the kind of small deal that shows what Colangelo is capable of.
Colangelo wasn't afraid to trade popular Matt Bonner and take on a big contract in Rasho Nesterovic.
There still is all kinds of work to be done with the Raptors but with Colangelo in charge, the belief is, it will get done. Because his mind races to the future.
He can tell you who the prized free agents will be in 2009 and 2010 and how much cap space the Raptors will have and which teams will be weakened in the process
That's how his mind is, how sharp it is. That's why he has no time to waste. His mind forever racing. The Raptors couldn't be in better hands.
GETTING TO KNOW BRYAN
Born: June 1, 1965
Highlights: Graduated from Cornell University, 1987 with a degree in business management and applied economics ... Has a career record as a GM of 543-431 (.557) ... He is a two-time executive of the year in the NBA (2005, 2007).