April 9, 2005
Firing Peddie, Babcock no cure-all
By BILL HARRIS, TORONTO SUN
Richard Peddie said yesterday he is "not that anxious" about public speculation regarding his professional future running the Raptors and Maple Leafs. And Peddie also claimed he received many calls of support yesterday "from knowledgeable people," including a number of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. board members.
"Sometimes people think, well, the Raptors are underperforming, ergo, fire the CEO," said Peddie, the president and CEO of MLSEL. "But this is a billion-dollar business with many aspects and you need to have a long-term perspective.
"As always, CEOs are held responsible. I believe our performance has earned me the right to stay, but at the same time, it's (the board's) call."
By the way, Peddie said he still supports Raptors general manager Rob Babcock.
"At the end of every season, we evaluate everyone in the organization, from top to bottom," Peddie said. "Rob and I already have chatted about this season. Rob knows, as a rookie GM, there are some things that have worked and some things for which the early returns aren't great. But GMs need support to put their plans in place, and Rob has it."
If you're among the gluttons for punishment who have continued to cheer for the Raptors over the past three seasons, you probably have been asking yourself one big question: Who is responsible for all these defeats?
Understandably, frustrated Raptors fans want the guilty party tarred and feathered. But who is it exactly? Peddie? Babcock? Yesterday the job security of those two was thrown into doubt by a report in a Toronto newspaper that claimed there is major dissatisfaction at the MLSEL board level.
Keep in mind, there are those who believe that as long as the majority owner of MLSEL is the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan -- whose leaders not only are money-first people, but also are far more versed in hockey than in basketball -- then the Raptors will be doomed to sub-mediocrity. We don't necessarily believe that has to be the case, as long as the right men are running the hoops operation.
The futures of Peddie and Babcock are not tied together. While there don't appear to be any scenarios in play by which Peddie would go and Babcock would stay, there naturally are scenarios that could see Babcock go and Peddie stay.
Babcock is in his first season as the Raptors GM and he took over a bad situation. At many levels it is ridiculous to fire a new GM after only one year. However, sources said yesterday some of the MLSEL board members are very uncomfortable with the basketball decisions that have been made during the past 10 months, despite the fact Babcock said from the beginning his rebuilding plan would take at least three years.
Babcock, by the way, has received no indication his job is in jeopardy. Raptors coach Sam Mitchell probably is more popular among the company's hierarchy than Babcock is right now. However, if Babcock ever were to be removed, all bets would be off with regard to Mitchell's continued employment.
Now, you would think if Babcock actually were in trouble, the man who hired him -- Peddie -- also would be on the hot seat. But that's far from automatic, notwithstanding the possibility of internal tinkering that could limit Peddie's direct involvement in hoops decisions.
Peddie has been around the Raptors a long time, dating back to the days before the team was purchased by the Maple Leafs. He has appeared to be in trouble on many occasions but always has survived.
If MLSEL minority owner Larry Tanenbaum had more power, Peddie probably would have been jettisoned a long time ago. But for now it still is the teachers who call the shots and, for the most part, Peddie has been the teachers' guy.
This Raptors team needs many things, obviously, but are annual front-office bloodlettings among them?
Before the board chooses that long and winding road, it had best be sure another house-cleaning is going to help more than it hurts.