Washington Wizards v Toronto Raptors

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.

Comments (17)

  1. Alvin Williams is my favourite all-time Raptor.

    I was disappointed when I saw they let him go. I thought it was a good move to have him around the organization, no matter the role.

    This is an actual question…
    Wouldn’t it make sense to let Ujiri handle the staff since he’s the one with actual basketball experience? To me it’s odd he didn’t even speak to Ujiri about Williams at all. I’m not doubting Leiweke’s business capabilities and experience, but to me, someone with basketball experience should be at least contacted about these kinds of decisions.

  2. ujiri probobly had a say in it . they probobly dont want all these hardcore williams fans busting his chops . liewkie will take the heat i think if there even is any

    • Of course MU could have stopped it if he thought it mattered. He was here with Alvin previously, so he would have known all that he brings to the table. If MU didn’t want Alvin, I’m going to trust MU.

      I liked Alvin as well. One of the best Raptor players ever, personally and professionally. As a member of the Raptor’s management though, I have no idea if he was any good. Good luck to you Alvin. We wish you well in your future endeavors.

  3. I agree – luv Boogie – but, I agree…New identity time!

    • Don’t be fooled. Morse Morris and youngjames are one and the same. Time to come up with another yet another name.

  4. I was never a huge Alvin fan, he just benefited from being around at the right time and was paid very handsomely for being a below average guard. Just another member of the long list of below average to mediocre professional athletes propped up by Toronto sports mythos.

    As for his firing, his role didn’t seem very consequential so it doesn’t make a big difference to me if he stays or goes, just another guy who has to be sent packing so Ujiri can construct his front office the way he wants it.

    Also, I know it’s late, but any chance of a Ujiri podcast? I believe the last one only covered the reassignment of Colangelo.

  5. Alvin Williams was one of the best Raps of all time, but unfortunately that has nothing to do with this decision. Judging by the mess this frachise has been in for what seems like an eternity, obviously scouting was an issue. I don’t see how Kyle Lowry is connected to all this. (other than the fact that he is close to Williams). This is a business….no room for weak decision making. I’m liking what I see already.

    • *reportedly close to Alvin Williams

      Any time the media sees player A is close to player B, I take it with a grain of salt.

      • What does the media gain by saying “player a” is close to another player??? Strange thing to start a rumour about….

  6. Where were the people complaining when Alvin was demoted from Director of Player Development to Philly based scout?

    I loved Alvin’s heart and effort as a player, but let’s build an organization based on competence, not nostalgia and nepotism.

  7. I swear they’re trying to embarrass Colangelo into resigning. Probably could have kept Alvin around in some sort of capacity, not that I care either way. Instead they fire him and indirectly give Colangelo another shot to the stomach. Seriously , at what point does he get the hint that he’s clearly not wanted.

    • This is all in your head dude. They KEPT Colnagelo. That means they want him.

      • Yeah but trying to fire a Colangelo in the NBA is like trying to expell a Senators son from school.

        • Your honostly telling me that you don’t think theyre hoping that BC accepts an offer somewhere else and that what has transpired the last month isn’t the least bit awkward ?so awkward to the point that BC won’t even come out of his office to grab a Fiji during the course of a day?

        • “trying to fire a Colangelo” is not hard if that’s what needs to be done, you just do it. Now if “they” are hoping he accepts an offer somewhere else, then I’m very disappointed in the way they are running things. You don’t keep someone in your organisation because of who he is if you don’t want him there anymore…you fire his ass. I think they kept him because he knows this team well, he’s well respected in nba circles, and he brings something to the organisation. This is just my opinion.

  8. Boogie is our Tie Domi. Mediocre player that loved Toronto and gave 100% every game.

    I respect him as a person, and wish him well. But he is our past and the Raptors are looking forward.

    Thank you New Raptor Brass for making decisions based on improving the future and not on preserving our crappy past.

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