Raps' GM search could be headed in Dr. J direction Brass said to be re-thinking needs
Need someone in place before draft
DOUG SMITH SPORTS REPORTER
Plan A in the search for a new general manager has done nothing to impress the Raptors hierarchy and the franchise now seems to be leaning toward finding an alternate method to choose a replacement for Glen Grunwald.
Several team and league sources say neither Rob Babcock nor Jeff Weltman did nearly enough in two interviews to win the job, one that demands a sharp basketball mind and a type of presence that will filter throughout the organization.
And now there are people throughout the NBA and in the Raptors organization who are thinking a management group headed by the legendary Julius Erving, surrounded by a couple of sharp basketball minds, is the way to go.
"Nothing's going to happen quickly," said one Raptors official who has first-hand knowledge of the process.
Lending credence to the fact the job search has shifted, interim GM Jack McCloskey has left Toronto and director of player personnel Jim Kelly returned to California after watching three-quarters of a Canadian high school all-star game Saturday.
Neither minority owner Larry Tanenbaum nor Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chief executive officer Richard Peddie returned phone calls seeking comment yesterday.
Peddie said last week the process to replace Grunwald, gone since April 1, had been moving quicker than expected, but that comment came before both Weltman and Babcock had finished their second round of interviews, including all-important meetings with Tanenbaum.
Whether a new search will be conducted in the same way — with Peddie studying recommendations he has received as well as making cold calls of his own — or will target one or two people specifically is unclear.
The prospect of a team headed by Erving has picked up steam throughout the organization in recent days. Last week, the former Philadelphia 76ers legend expressed interest in the job, but the Raptors made no overtures.
A team source said Erving has been contacted by people on the periphery of the job search and he could speak with Tanenbaum sometime this week.
The key job for the new GM, hiring a coach, would become less of an issue if Erving or someone with his prestige runs the search. While it's one thing for an interested coach to blow off inquiries from someone like Weltman or Babcock, Erving, colourfully known as Dr. J during his playing career, still has more than enough caché to attract interest from any number of candidates.
The solution, one team source said, to his front-office inexperience would be to hire an assistant and a director of player personnel who would do most of the legwork searching out prospects.
As well, there are still back-channel avenues open for the Raptors to contact Detroit Pistons executive John Hammond, although he is still telling acquaintances he's not interested in the position.
The Pistons are embroiled in a taught second-round playoff series with the New Jersey Nets and it's entirely possible Hammond won't want to talk until they are eliminated.
The next biggest thing the new GM has to handle is the June 26 NBA draft, but with such a glaring need for a big man and a young point guard, determining who to take with a top-eight pick isn't hard. The top point guards available are Wisconsin's Devin Harris, Connecticut's Ben Gordon, Jameer Nelson of St. Joe's and Illinois high schooler Shaun Livingston. The best big men are Connecticut's Emeka Okafor and Atlanta high school prospect Dwight Howard.