When we last left off here at the HQ, Michael Levin of Liberty Ballers was giving us his take on Ed Stefanski, the man rumoured to be the front-runner for the Toronto Raptors General Manager position, one that would open up should current GM Bryan Colangelo, look for some assistance at the top and retain only his President title.
RHQ: No, actually I’m really glad you went into all that depth because ironically what you just described, I would argue is very similar to Bryan Colangelo up until about a year ago, when things got so bad, that the Raptors had no other option really, than to tear it all down. We soon saw that while Chris Bosh was no LeBron James, he was pretty much the only thing keeping the team in that 40 win range, and without it him, well, it was time to face the music because…well…it’s already playing.
So having heard your description of Ed, would you agree that Stefanski is in fact the exact type of executive a rebuilding team like Toronto needs to stay as far away from as possible?
ML: Yes. You don’t want Ed Stefanski. He’s a nice guy, I’ve talked to him on the phone, he likes to talk about basketball which is cool, and he’s not just this guy who locks himself away from everyone. He’s a basketball guy, which is nice in some respects, but at a certain point it’s like "I don’t care if you’re the meanest person in the world, bring me a winner."
If you guys want to build a team that’s gonna hang around a playoff spot, always be in the running but never a true contender, then Ed’s your man. He just always seemed a bit overwhelmed by the whole GM process. And I think the Raptors have a really nice group of guys who can grow together, and with another piece or two, have the chance to be one of those up and coming, exciting clubs. And I don’t think Ed Stefanski’s the guy you want to keep building that core.
As well, when deals were getting made, he always seemed to be the guy that was getting outwitted by the smarter GM’s. "Oh look at how smart Sam Presti is, look at what Kevin Pritchard is doing," and then you have Stefanski sort of scratching his head as if to say, "what just happened?" Again, he was always saying "we’re looking to make moves that make basketball sense." He just became a parody of himself as things went on.
And now I don’t know what his title is, but basically Rod Thorn is the GM, and Ed Stefanski is just a guy who hangs out. I imagine he organizes poker games in the front office, and Rod’s like "look Ed, you really gotta cool it on this stuff."
RHQ: And he’s responding by saying "wait, me and Kapono have another hand to play."
ML: (Laughing.) Exactly.
RHQ: This seems like a moot point maybe, but are there ANY strengths you would list Ed as having as a GM, after that glowing review?
ML: He’s a good guy. He’s not like some other front office types who can be jerks so that’s nice. And he’ll be good with the press, the media will like him for a while because he’ll talk about the focus on winning. But what people like about him, those traits, is exactly what I don’t like about him. You need a guy who’s going to go in there and say "listen, here’s the plan. We’re going to lose for a while, we’re going to suck. But we’ll get new, young talent and grow a contending team."
So yes, good things: the press will like him, he’s a basketball guy, he used to play and was one of the best shooters in Philadelphia basketball history back at UPenn, but often it’s the people who know the game better that become blinded by their former glory days.
RHQ: It’s really interesting to hear your take here Mike because a lot of the problems I’ve had with Bryan Colangelo over his tenure sort of match up with what you’re talking about regarding Stefanski, and therefore perhaps it’s no surprise that Ed’s rumoured to be the front-runner for the Raps’ position.
One last question then as I think we’ve pretty much covered off everything else – how about Ed Stefanski and stats? Is there any advanced analytics that he subscribes to?
ML: No, from everything I’ve gathered on him in his four or so years in Philly, he basically ignores those. I don’t think he puts any stock in advanced stats at all, he’d rather watch a game and base decisions on his basketball experience. I mean, we have a player by the name of Louis Williams who I notoriously hate, and Ed has gone on record a number of times to say that he (Lou) is the one guy that we go to to make plays, and he’s our offensive sparkplug, and things like that. But if you look at the advanced stats you’ll see that his usage rate is through the roof, and for a guy off the bench that gets as many touches as he does, his efficiency marks are unacceptable. So basically he ignores them. Maybe he’s a closet stats freak but certainly on the surface he hasn’t show anything past using the old boys stats of box scores.
RHQ: Ok, great stuff Mike, think that just about does it.
ML: I’m sorry, I wish I could shower him (Ed Stefanski) with glowing reviews but…
RHQ: No, no, this was great, and in fact the exact kind of stuff our readers will want to know.
ML: I mean he hired Eddie Jordan. He hired him because they were friends from when they were back in Jersey together. It just made you say "why?" Especially based on the personnel we had on the team at the time.
Then he went to Doug Collins and hey, Doug Collins did a great job last year, but that was another safe pick. Here was another guy that people "knew," and considering Doug’s past rep with younger players, it seemed a bit like "fingers crossed, hope this works." Now it did, but again, it just echoed Ed’s unwillingness to take risks, something I feel you need to be able to do as a GM.
RHQ: Well I hope that’s the case as Ed looks to be a solid piece of this club’s future. Unlike Andrea Bargnani, who I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to when you were talking about Louis Williams.
ML: It’s terrifying how bad Andrea Bargnani is, compared to how good he should be. I go to bed sad every night because he should be one of the best players in the league, and he’s just not.
But he does kill the 76ers so there is that.
ML: …but then again you probably think that Mo Speights is one of the best players in the league based on how he plays against Toronto.
RHQ: That’s exactly what I was about to say. He destroyed the Raps last year!
Thanks for your take on Ed though Mike, again, much appreciated.
ML: No problem, looking forward to reading the results.