Why is it so hard to fire Bryan Colangelo? Outside of Toronto and its media cocoon, pundits have been calling for his ouster for years. After a string of disastrous and high-profile misfires (Jason Kapono, Jermaine O'Neal, Hedo Turkoglu, losing Chris Bosh, missing out on Steve Nash), it's hard to find a person who follows the team from afar who believes that Colangelo should still have a job with the Raptors.
Yet here they are, seven years later contemplating picking up his option year for at least one more tour of duty.
That's because every time Colangelo's contract status requires consideration, the club is positioned in such a perfect moment of intrigue.
The last time his contract was up was two years ago. While the club had just completed a 22-win season (their third-worst ever), they had some intriguing young pieces to work with (DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis, Jerryd Bayless), a top-five draft pick and a healthy amount of cap space coming their way. As far as positioning the club after Chris Bosh's departure, Colangelo had done a respectable job. He didn't have the good fortune of winning the lottery and nabbing Kyrie Irving, but he had at least put the club in a position to take positive steps forward as an organization.
The truth was that he had put the wheels into motion on an intriguing rebuild and the organization opted to give him a two year shot to see where it led.
Well, where it's led is here. The club has just completed a 34-48 season, the seventh-best in franchise history (seriously), with the team position in no less an intriguing spot as they were two years ago.
You may think that what Colangelo now has to sell MLSE on is the idea that Rudy Gay and Jonas Valanciunas can form a solid backbone for this organization, but you'd be wrong to think that. In order to get MLSE to sign off on the Gay deal he's already waged and won that battle. What he has to sell them on now is the idea that he is the best choice to oversee the construction of the support system around those two, and that is going to be a much harder sell.
There is no aspect of Colangelo's tenure with the Raptors that haunts his candidacy to stay on as president and general manager like his inability to put the right support pieces around Chris Bosh. Whether or not Bosh was ever going to be a capable franchise cornerstone, Colangelo's decisions to partner him with Andrea Bargnani, O'Neal and Turkoglu were poorly conceived.
Consider that list again for a second. Two of his three most prominent attempts to augment Bosh was to bring in players that played the same position as Bosh did.
Still, the Raptors have not had a rookie as intriguing as Valanciunas since Bosh in '03-'04, and Gay is the best wing player that the Raptors have employed since Vince Carter. His gamble on Amir Johnson paid off handsomely this year, and the middling lottery pick he'll be transferring to complete the Lowry deal makes that a solid transaction, as well, regardless of Lowry's disappointing season.
You want to know why it's so hard to fire Colangelo? It's because he keeps doing this. He intrigues, he dazzles and he puts compelling pieces into compelling places and dares people not imagine what would happen if all of those pieces worked perfectly together. Lob the criticism at him that his approach hasn't worked and he'll coolly remind you that it hasn't worked yet.
If MLSE decides to part ways with Colangelo it will be easy to see why. Heck, at this point there is a mountain of reasons to cut him loose and many will say it was a long time coming.
However, there aren't any guarantees in the 'GM's For Sale' bin, either. While the fear of things getting worse can be unduly paralyzing (just ask the fans in Sacramento and Washington), the fears are well-founded. The Raps kicked their most successful general manager, Glen Grunwald, to the curb and replaced him with Rob Babcock - that alone would make a lot of organizations gun shy about firing a known commodity without making absolutely certain it was the only option left.
At this point there is no way to know which way MLSE is leaning when it comes to Colangelo's future. No doubt he has his supporters and detractors on the Board, just like he always does. If you're a betting person, though, the smart bet is on Colangelo coming back.
After all, it's hard to fire Bryan Colangelo.