He can spin all he wants but make no mistake: Bryan Colangelo has one foot and four toes out the door. He is only slightly less persona non grata than Brian Burke was when he was sent packing by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Ltd., and likely owes his continuing possession of an Air Canada Centre pass-card to the fact he does a better job than Burke of playing well with others.
Not that Colangelo seemed to understand on Tuesday the message behind losing the title of the job that was the reason the Toronto Raptors wanted him in the first place.
Colangelo, who in what seems like a sop to Larry Tanenbaum and maybe even NBA commissioner David Stern has hung on to the title of Toronto Raptors president after being relieved of the general manager's powers, said in a conference call on Tuesday that he was "thrilled and excited being part of this thing – in terms of putting the finishing touches on a team that I think is well on its way to being a competitive team … a playoff team."
He has brass ones, our Bryan: leading off his conference call by describing as a "mis-characterization" the description of his reaction to the news that had been offered up by his boss, Tim Leiweke, about an hour earlier. Colangelo preferred "disappointed," to "ticked off," – so much so that he gave 'disappointed' an extension.
While Leiweke, who has decided to move up his arrival in Toronto as president and chief executive officer of MLSE by a month to June 3, spent part of his conference call talking about how he wanted to establish the Raptors brand across Canada, Colangelo spent his time working on his own re-branding.
In case anybody had forgotten, he reminded the world that he knows just about everybody in the NBA and that under his watch the Raptors took their training camp and played exhibition games across the country while he himself serves on the board of directors for Basketball Canada. So there! How do you like those nationalistic bona fides, eh?
Absent was any mention of the franchise-crushing decision to name Canada's own Jay Triano as head coach in place of Sam Mitchell; or the fact that Colangelo came out of last summer's dalliance with Steve Nash absent the greatest Canadian basketballer of all time but very much in possession of Landry Fields, signed as a way of forcing the New York Knicks out of the Nash sweepstakes. Talk about a booby prize.
Colangelo will likely end up with another NBA job.
He has an "NBA out" in his contract, and with the family name pretty much hoops royalty it would not be out of the question to see him get a job in the NBA front office when Adam Silver replaces Stern. After all, it was Stern who steered Colangelo, then one of the game's bright young things, to Toronto in order to save the franchise.
It worked for a couple of years, but signing Hedo Turkoglu, putting too much faith in Andrea Bargnani and mis-reading Chris Bosh's intentions started the downward spiral. Colangelo's supporters, all six of them, will point out that the signing of Turkoglu was widely-heralded (true) and that the Bargnani draft wasn't exactly choc-a-block with stellar first-rounders (also true) and that because the team was close to a playoff spot Colangelo couldn't trade Bosh ahead of free agency because he wouldn't get value (likely true.) But that misses the point; Colangelo isn't supposed to be as smart as analysts or columnists or fans. He was supposed to be smarter; he was supposed to see stuff the rest of us couldn't see.
By the end of his conference call, Colangelo seemed to have pulled in his horns. Perhaps Leiweke texted him with a gentle reminder that he'd been stripped of power, not had it re-distributed. By the end he was talking about "helping whoever is in the [G.M.'s] job if they want my help."
Perhaps it was the realization that nobody much wants him to be part of any "finishing touches," especially since his finishing touches would likely include signing Rudy Gay to a contract extension, or at least the realization that nobody much wants the guy whose decisions created the need for a rebuild to oversee the rebuild.
Not even if that guy is Bryan Colangelo.