Toronto Raptors: Dumping Bryan Colangelo Is the "High School" Thing To Do

Graeme FrisqueContributor IIApril 22, 2011

WASHINGTON - MARCH 3:  The NBA logo is shown on the game ball during the NBA game between the Toronto Raptors and the Washington Wizards on March 3, 2004 at the MCI Center in Washington, DC.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Reports out of Toronto suggest that Bryan Colangelo's days as the Raptors' GM are numbered. Talk of Wayne Embry taking over as interim GM, until a suitable replacement can be found, is yet another indication of the dysfunction that is the Teacher's Pension Fund led, Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment. 

Although changing management can often be a boost for a franchise is disarray, at some point ownership has to realize that the grass isn't always greener. With no suitable replacement available to replace Colangelo, making a move such as this—given the uncertainty that surrounds the team and the upcoming expiring NBA collective bargaining agreement—is fool-hearty.

There are many reasons to retain the services of the once-thought-of "wiz kid" GM. There are not nearly as many reasons to dismiss him.

Colangelo was hired back in March of 2006 to turn around a franchise that, ironically enough, was in the same situation that the Raptor's find themselves now. However, there are a few differences, at this juncture, that would suggest that such a move would do little to improve the fortunes of the team.

This is simply a situation of history repeating itself. In 2006, the Raptors were looking to recover from the loss of their franchise player, Vince Carter. Colangelo was, at the time, hired by interim general manager Wayne Embry to replace then-fired GM, Rob Babcock.

Fast forward five years, and the Raptors find themselves in exactly the same situation. Last season, Chris Bosh, the Raptors' former franchise player, left via a sign-and-trade deal. The team once again finds itself adrift, looking for direction. The major difference, however, is that unlike Rob Babcock, Bryan Colangelo has a track record of being able to turn teams in such a situation around.

After orchestrating the third greatest turnaround in NBA history with the Phoenix Suns during the 2004-2005 season, Colangelo illustrated his ability again in 2006, turning a 27-win Raptors team into a 47-win division champion—winning his second Executive of the Year Award in the process. What other available prospective candidate boasts that kind of resume? The answer is a resounding "none." Despite his misteps as Raptors' GM, Colangelo has earned the benefit of the doubt to turn this team around.

Although the loss of Chris Bosh, without receiving adequate compensation in return, does not reflect well on Mr. Colangelo, his handling of the situation has been far more astute than that predecessor.

In 2004, Rob Babcock traded Vince Carter to the New Jersey Nets for Aaron Williams, Eric Williams, Alonzo Mourning (who never played a game for the Raptors) and two first-round picks. This is highly regarded as the worst trade in Toronto Raptors history, setting the team back years. It was Colangelo who was able to turn the the team around in a single season despite this fact.

The Raptors are in a very good position entering the 2011-2012 season. With a new CBA looming, Colangelo has left the Raptors in a financial situation that any struggling franchise in the NBA would be envious of. The Raptors enter next season with a boat load of cap space and the third best chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Whatever the financial landscape of the NBA looks like next season, the Raptors are in a position to make moves within it.

Colangelo's draft record is better than most NBA GM's. He has drafted the likes of Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Stephen Jackson and Shawn Marion, among others. With the Raptors, he has drafted the likes of Demar Derozan, Ed Davis and—despite his shortcomings of becoming a true No. 1 go-to-guy—Andrea Bargnani has turned out to be a legit, seven-foot, 20+ ppg scorer, coming out of a very week 2006 draft.

With a potential top-three pick in this year's draft, Raptors fans and ownership must ask themselves what available executives are better at drafting than Colangelo?

It is no secret that Colangelo's biggest detractor within MLSE is Glen Silvestri, one of the directors in charge of the Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan fund, the majority owner of the Raptors.

Minority owner Larry Tanenbaum has already expressed his interest in re-signing Colangelo to an extension.This fact simply illustrates the problems within the ownership structure of MLSE. The sports people want Colangelo back; the numbers people do not.

Colangelo has made mistakes during his tenure as Raptors' GM. The signings of Jermaine O'Neal, Jason Kapono and T.J Ford loom large, but he has also shown his ability to rectify those mistakes. None of his moves have turned into longterm albatross' to the franchise. How many NBA executives can not only admit their mistakes, but have shown the ability to to move them out of town? That list is a short one, and it could be argued that Bryan Colangelo is at the top of that list.

It's gut-check time for the folks running Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment. They really need to ask themselves—who better than Bryan Colangelo to navigate them through the difficult situation the franchise finds themselves in? The current GM has the track record to prove he can. It's time for them to trust the judgement of Wayne Embry, the man who hired him, and the man they're now considering replacing him with.