Colangelo still wears bulls-eye

Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo has a lot of heavy lifting to do after agreeing to a...

Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo has a lot of heavy lifting to do after agreeing to a two-year contract plus club option year on Tuesday. (VERONICA HENRI/QMI Agency)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:47 PM ET

TORONTO - It took far too long, but Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment made the right call.

Not that it had much of a choice.

It is not like there are a ton of quality candidates capable of replacing Bryan Colangelo as general manager of the Raptors.

Colangelo is not the best of the best, but he is also far from the worst. Like most executives, he makes his share of mistakes, but at least has the guts to clean up many of them when they go awry.

The Raptors have gone 183-227 (.446) under Colangelo, far better than what they managed under Isiah Thomas, Glen Grunwald or Rob Babcock.

Colangelo is staying put for at least two more seasons with a team option for a third.

He didn’t get the four or five-year extension he had long sought, but he got a fair deal.

He gets a chance to prove he can put the runaway Raptors train back on track after it fell so spectacularly off the rails in recent years.

That process is already underway thanks to the shrewd drafting of DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis and the low-cost acquisitions of youngsters like Jerryd Bayless and James Johnson.

Drafting and trading aren’t really issues with Colangelo — especially drafting, but somebody desperately needs to provide some sober second thought before he is allowed to open the purse strings on free agents.

Jason Kapono and later Hedo Turkoglu were nothing short of high-priced disasters. The Raptors should have cap space again whenever the NBA marketplace reopens and with a newer collective bargaining agreement in place, likely with a lower salary cap, it is paramount that Colangelo doesn’t make a mistake.

Colangelo’s contract was set to expire on June 30 and his status had been unclear for months.

The Sun first reported on Feb. 15 that “While there is no timetable for an announcement, according to a source with knowledge of the thinking of the upper echelon of the MLSEL board, it is 99% certain that (Colangelo) will be re-signed before the end of his current contract.”

It took a while, but that information proved correct in the end, though Colangelo had faced opposition from Glen Silvestri, a board member representing majority owner Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan. More important was that he had the backing of other influential board members like CEO Richard Peddie, COO Tom Anselmi and Larry Tanenbaum, who owns almost 20% of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

MLSE had come under fire for letting Colangelo’s status remain up in the air. Last year, the Portland Trail Blazers allowed then general manager Kevin Pritchard to run their draft process, before letting him go shortly thereafter.

At his season-ending press conference, Colangelo strongly backed head coach Jay Triano and a source confirmed late Tuesday that it is almost a certainty that Triano and his staff will return.

Senior vice president Maurizio Gheradini also needs to either be re-upped or let go before mid-June, though his fate is far less clear.

Colangelo said now that his situation has been resolved he expects everything else to be decided in the next few weeks.

Colangelo has had mixed results in Toronto, guiding the team to the playoffs his first two years at the helm, earning a second executive of the year award (after first winning one while managing the Phoenix Suns) after leading the Raptors to an Atlantic Division title, but falling short of the playoffs the past few seasons.

He has admitted things came together too fast in his first rebuild, so the odds are he has learned from that experience and will do a proper revamping this time around.

He now has the stress relieving luxury of an extension.

Meanwhile, whoever buys MLSE will not be married to Colangelo forever and will be able either to reward him if he makes the franchise a contender, or let him go.

His biggest task this off-season could be determining what to do with enigmatic big man Andrea Bargnani, selected No. 1 overall in 2006.

Last month, Colangelo had said Bargnani was “miscast” as a centre and indicated he would either attempt to find a true centre to pair with Bargnani, or look to move him.

On Tuesday he reiterated that the Raptors “have good, marketable players that I know there’s some interest in around the league.”

With Davis and Amir Johnson already capable of manning the power forward spot, the Raptors clearly have a logjam to deal with.

Now we know Colangelo will be the one doing the heavy lifting.

The pressure on Colangelo will be much more intense this time around. He is not arriving as he did in 2006 basking in the glow of his success in Phoenix.

No, instead, he re-signs with a bulls-eye already painted on his back in the eyes of many.

But he also has a rare second chance to make things right.

He intends to do as much.

“I vow to do everything in my power not to have (a 22-win season) happen again,” Colangelo said.

ryan.wolstat@sunmedia.ca


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