2007 Bryan Colangelo

by George Gross

Basketball insiders refer to Bryan Colangelo as a genius…some call him a basketball magician.

Bryan Colangelo

Bryan Colangelo

Colangelo, president and general manager of the Toronto Raptors, was selected as Magna International’s 2007 Sports Executive of the Year by the Sports Media Canada’s Selection Committee panel.

The obvious reason for his selection was his re-shaping the Raptors from NBA also-rans to contenders in less than 18 months. He rid the dressing room of troublesome so-called superstars and replaced them with several young, disciplined and eager international players who consider it an honour to play for the Toronto Raptors.

As an expert of the international scene, Colangelo reached into the international talent pool and selected Italian-born Andrea Bargnani as his first draft choice.

With talent in mind, Colangelo didn’t hesitate in signing T.J. Ford as a point guard because the GM of the Raptors believes in a team concept when improving his club and looking for players who are capable of complementing Chris Bosh, the Raptors’ franchise player.

Colangelo absorbed his basketball know-how from his father Jerry Colangelo, former owner of the Phoenix Suns. During his father’s reign, young Bryan became the general manager of the Suns for 11 years. In addition to his position with the Suns, Bryan also served as president of Phoenix Arena Sports, owners of the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League and the operating arm of the WNBA team the Phoenix Mercury, from 1991 to 2002.

Then he was recruited to Toronto. In January 2006 the Raptors fired Rob Babcock and the team began courting Bryan Colangelo. Despite denials from Raptors headquarters, a month later — February 28 to be exact — the Raptors announced Colangelo as their president and general manager.

It didn’t take Colangelo long to create a stir in Hogtown. In June 2006 he put together his first trade since joining the Raptors — swapping the controversial first rounder Rafael Araujo for Robert Whaley and Kris Humphries of the Utah Jazz. He followed it up by sending Eric Williams, popular Matt Bonner and a 2009 second round pick to the San Antonio Spurs for centre Rasho Nesterovic.

Colangelo engineered his first headline trade by exchanging Charlie Villanueva, the runner up for the NBA Rookie of the Year award, for Milwaukee Bucks point guard T.J. Ford. Colangelo’s next clever move was selecting Andrea Bargnani as his first selection in the 2006 NBA draft. The Italy-born Bargnani thus became the first European selected first overall in the history of the annual NBA draft.

The Raptor GM also signed several free agents from European teams, including Jorge Garbajosa and Anthony Parker.

These moves should be considered as Colangelo’s opening gambits. He has more up his sleeve, That’s why it may not be long before basketball fans in Toronto might start calling him the Raptors’ godfather.