As Tim Leiweke stressed the need for improvement for an organization that wasn’t good enough and Masai Ujiri talked about building his own small staff here in Toronto, many of us were able to foresee the organizational house cleaning around the corner. So when guys like Ed Stefanski and Jim Kelly were let go, I don’t think anyone around the team was exactly floored.
But I don’t know how many people saw this coming, as fans and media alike were surprised to hear the news on Monday that former fan-favourite Alvin Williams had been relieved of his duties as a scout. In addition, Doug Smith reports that CEO Tim Leiweke made the decision and that General Manager Masai Ujiri never spoke to Alvin.
On the surface, the decision is tough to swallow for Raptors fans. Williams gave every ounce of his body to the team during the only legitimately successful period in franchise history and was adored by Toronto basketball fans because of it. His hiring as an assistant coach in 2009 and his subsequent move to the role of Director of Player Development later on (Williams was most recently a scout for the Raptors working out of his hometown of Philadelphia) were celebrated by those same fans who simply loved the idea of “Boogie” still being associated with the team.
From that angle, Leiweke’s decision is an unfortunate one as you could argue that even if Williams’ scouting services were no longer valued or needed, the organization could have found some role for him to fill with the team. After all, if Bryan Colangelo was protected from a full-on firing, why couldn’t Alvin Williams be?
On the other hand, the big name hires of Leiweke and Ujiri were met with celebration and hope themselves, and part of their new jobs consist of making cold business decisions as they look to finally forge a new identity (and a successful one at that) for the Toronto Raptors. Whether fans agree with it or not, whether they understand it or not, at least one of Leiweke/Ujiri obviously saw this as one of those decisions.
As much as we love the guy for what he gave to the franchise on the floor, we have no idea how good, bad, great or awful Williams was as a scout. And again, a new CEO or new General Manager shouldn’t exactly be faulted for cleaning house and making tough decisions like this (though I am curious about the fact that Ujiri reportedly never made contact with Alvin about it).
After watching and sticking with this franchise for 18 mostly pathetic seasons, all I ask of Tim Leiwke and Masai Ujiri is that they oversee the transformation of the Raptors from a league laughingstock to a perennially successful, winning basketball team. If they can do that, then as heartless as it may seem now, we won’t be bothered or preoccupied by otherwise insignificant decisions on the job status of team scouts, no matter how beloved they might be.
Many people will make today about sympathy and nostalgia, but it’s important to look at the big picture. Tim Leiweke and Masai Ujiri have been entrusted with building a successful basketball program here, and they shouldn’t be faulted for wanting to build it exactly as they see fit.
On a basketball level, many will make this day about the future of Kyle Lowry, who was close with Williams from his time at Villanova. In reality though, the connections and panic are likely greatly exaggerated.
If Ujiri doesn’t believe that Lowry can be part of that aforementioned future success, then he’ll explore his options (the Raptors could look for trade options or could even buy out the final year of Lowry’s contract for $1 million up until July 15), but I’m fairly certain that they wouldn’t have fired Williams just because they may not see Lowry as part of the future. And if Lowry does stick around, has a great season in 2013-14 and is offered a worthy financial commitment from the Raptors as a result, I highly doubt he’ll turn it down just because his buddy Alvin is no longer with the organization.
A lot of people seem to be over-thinking all of this as they reminisce about the admirable Williams. In reality, it’s not really that complicated.