GM calling the shots

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

Sam Mitchell is unemployed today. Wealthy but unemployed. And you can argue until the cows come home about why he is jobless.

Is it because he had a squad with too many flaws on it to live up to the lofty expectations of roster architect Bryan Colangelo, who called it, as the Raptors headed into training camp nine weeks ago, the best team he has had since coming to Toronto?

Or are you on the side that says the roster was quite capable and it was the man directing the team who wasn't getting the job done?

There are plenty of people in both camps, but the only person that matters is Colangelo and he made his position crystal clear on Wednesday.

By firing Mitchell, he has put the onus on the players to prove him right and show Toronto that the pieces are in place to, at worst, go further than a quick first-round playoff exit, which is what this team accomplished under Mitchell the past two seasons.

And by putting the onus on the players, Colangelo -- and he acknowledged this in the aftermath of the Mitchell firing -- has put himself in the crosshairs for criticism.

If this team doesn't respond under the watchful eye of interim head coach Jay Triano then Colangelo is going to have no choice but to blow it all up and go back to the drawing board. Colangelo said he has plenty of suitors for his underachieving roster but opted to see how this team reacts with a new face holding the clipboard.

Either the team rebounds or Colangelo starts looking a little harder at some of those suitors, which likely means the end of Jason Kapono in Toronto and perhaps Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon as well. But make no mistake about who will be calling the shots. The interim tag Triano carries ensures that, for the time being, we will not necessarily be seeing the team the way Triano envisions it but the way his GM wants it -- and that's no shot at Triano. That's just the way it works with interim coaches.

Listening to Triano stress the need for his team to get out and run Wednesday evening just minutes after Colangelo pretty much had used the exact same words during a conference call regarding Mitchell's firing was proof enough of that.

Any autonomy that Mitchell had earned with his coach of the year award and his three years on the job just isn't there for Triano right out of the gate.

It may come over time, but for now when Triano talks about running an up-tempo brand of basketball, you are hearing it from Colangelo.

So can this team rebound from an 8-9 start that has seen them lose winnable games and almost lose a bunch more as huge leads evaporate?

On that front there is some hope. Even in Mitchell's darkest hours he never questioned his team's effort. He always felt it was there, though he was unable to make that assertion following a 39-point blowout loss in Denver on Tuesday. Colangelo was bang on when he called that one "an absolute kick in the gut."

NEW VOICE

For the first time in his tenure, maybe Mitchell was being tuned out by the players Tuesday night. Triano, being the new voice will not have that negative to deal with.

It's an advantage to be sure, but will it be enough of an advantage to turn around this underachieving team.

If it isn't, be ready for wholesale changes. And if it means exceeding the luxury tax, bet on that too. Chris Bosh's walk year arrives after next season and the last thing this organization needs is to send its star player the message they are not interested in contending.


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