Ed Stefanski and the Toronto Raptors Part I

 

Is Ed Stefanski the right man for the General Manager position of the Toronto Raptors? Michael Levin of Liberty Ballers gives us his take...

So the NBA is hiring a Federal regulator to try and jumpstart labour talks.

Well, it's something right?

The way talks broke off last week it hardly looked like either side was that keen to bring back our beloved game so if this at least gets the wheels moving again, it sounds good to me.

Instead of dwelling on the current labour unrest however, we're turning back to the ongoing front-office search being undertaken by the Toronto Raptors. Last week Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Ed Stefanski has emerged as a leader in what was a four-horse race, and that the position the Dinos were looking to fill was that of General Manager.

Stefanski?

Yep, the man who is likely most fans' last option for the position looks to in fact be the favourite.

Maybe though we're missing something here. Could Stefanski actually be a better fit for Toronto than the other three candidates?

To answer this question, and dig into the local Philadelphia native, we turned again to our SB Nation blogosphere, this time Michael Levin of the 76ers blog, Liberty Ballers, for his insight on the potential hiring.

 

 

RaptorsHQ:  Obviously the reason we’re having this conversation is because the Raptors have narrowed their front-office search to four candidates, one of them being Mr. Stefanski.  In fact the word now is that Ed is actually the front-runner for the position.  So I wanted to get your take on him, just in terms of his time with Philly because obviously he’s been around the league for a while.

Michael Levin:  It’s been kind of an interesting tale for Stefanski in Philly because when he came in, we loved him.  We were all about him.  He got Elton Brand, which at the time looked good, and I still feel was a pretty good decision, but he came in and made moves immediately.  He’s a Philly guy, so a true fan of the team and so the first year was a really nice thing; we’re making moves, Mo Cheeks led us into the playoffs again, we had sort of a scrappy team and felt like "hey, we’re right there."

But it always seemed that that’s where we topped off, and he (Stefanski) was ok with that.

RHQ:  Can you elaborate on that?

ML:  It just seemed that we were constantly building to make the playoffs, and nothing else.  And that’s still the case.  What Ed doesn’t understand in terms of basketball, is how to build a champion – there’s a gap there between putting together a good group of guys who will win games, and that next level.  Obviously every GM is trying to do that, and many others can’t too, but it always seemed like he was more happy to stay mediocre, than take a step back in order to eventually take two or three forward.  His opinion was that there was no reason to get worse, and then get much better in a couple of years.  So it always felt like he was saving his ass, and never had a plan.

To me the biggest thing when you’re trying to build a team, is "when are we going to contend for a championship."  Is it five years?  Ok, then it’s five years, let’s plan towards that.  But Ed was always a bit like "we’re going to win some games, and then see what happens."   This was always obvious around trade deadline time, or the off-season when the team was trying to get better.  Maybe the team should trade Andre Iguodala, or try and move Elton Brand’s contract, or really anything, and with Ed, it always came back to "we’re going to make trades that make basketball sense."  That was his favourite term, he’d use it all the time, and it became a running joke on the site.

And not that Stefanski doesn’t have any basketball sense, but going 41 and 41 isn’t good.  In fact it’s the definition of mediocre.  And anything that drops his record below that, according to him, doesn’t make basketball sense.  I ended up writing a whole piece on his use of the term:

In the end, he tried to retain Sixers’s fans, of which there aren’t a whole lot any more as mediocrity doesn’t sell, with this idea of winning some games, and trades that made basketball sense.

So he’d say things like "ok, we’re going trade for an established veteran.  We’ll get Tony Battie in here, and Tony Battie will anchor our defence cause he’s a veteran guy who’s been around the block and yada, yada, yada.

And to most of us fans, that’s the kind of thing where we think "well why don’t you go after a young person, who can get better?"

And it would always come back as "no, they’re not good enough, or not good enough now, or don’t have a proven track record, and we’re going to go after old guys who really haven’t done jack."  So you get Andres Nocionni, you get Jason Kapono, and on and on.

Magically Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner fell into our lap.  And they’re two of, well, Evan Turner hasn’t proven it yet, but they will be two of the best young players in the league.  Not very best, not top five, but a good core there.

But he kept surrounding them, rather than go with a model like the Thunder, the Blazers, or even the Clippers, rather than do that, he would go and get some veterans and try to force together this young talent and old talent.

And that doesn’t work.  As every team is now showing you, unless you have one of the best three to five players in the league, you’re not going to win a championship unless you have a young core, or a group of guys that are around the same age growing together, and meshing together and building together.

So when I talk about Ed Stefanski, and I apologize if I’m rambling, what Ed has never really understood is that in order to get better, sometimes you have to get worse, and grow, and evaluate your talent, and say "we’re not the team we thought we were, let me cut my losses," etc.  Instead it always seemed with Ed that he was an inch away from getting fired, and he was content to just win enough to skate by.

(Continued Tomorrow...)
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