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Open Gym Recap: Life on the road with Dan Tolzman

The Open Gym cameras did something a little different this week, giving viewers a glimpse into the life of Dan Tolzman, Raptors assistant GM and vice-president of player personnel.

This recap is very late, because when the newest episode was released, I was either watching my one of my son’s hockey tournament games in the Middle Of Nowhere, Ontario, driving a car full of 8-year-olds singing “Gucci Gang” (where did I go wrong?), or being repeatedly smacked in the head with a hockey ball or mini stick. I don’t know which, it’s all a blur. But still, here we are.

Dan Tolzman is the Assistant General Manager (there is an ‘Assistant TO the Regional Manager/The Office joke just waiting right within my grasp), and Vice President of Player Personnel for the Toronto Raptors. His duties, he explains, include managing the Raptors 905, and lurking in the shadows, trying to find players that will mesh well with the Raptors organization. He is the Krillin to Masai Ujiri’s Goku, if you will. Don’t worry Jacob Mack,I got you.

It is not a glamorous job. The jets are not private, and Tolzman spends more time in commuter airports, train stations, and colleges and universities, than the Staples Center or Madison Square Garden.

Tolzman’s approach to scouting is different than that of other scouts. Instead of lining up in attempt to woo the top recruits in the world, he travels city to city crossing off names of players who would not fit in with the Raptors culture.

The hardest part of the job is being away from family. With the days on the road blending into weeks, Tolzman states that he does not understand how the scouts of yesterday made it work without video chats and texting. There is a sense of community though, between scouts in the NBA. A group of men and women giving up precious moments and missing their families for the betterment of a franchise.

The amount of time spent just waiting is exhausting, but the Assistant GM finds solace in the loneliness, often using the time to reflect on where the Raptors are at as team, and what needs to be improved moving forward.

As has become his legacy, Masai Ujiri poached Dan Tolzman from parts unknown, thought not from Brazil or the Republic of Congo this time. Tolzman was actually working for the Raptors in their Public Relations Department. Masai took interest in Tolzman after receiving multiple emails from him in the PR department. At the time, Ujiri was unable to hire anyone for the Operations department, but slowly had Tolzman transition from PR to Operations by having him organize scouting trips, schedules, and databases. This gave Masai a glimpse into the mind of Tolzman, calling him smart, street smart, and basketball smart. From someone as successful and brilliant as Masai Ujiri, this is the highest of compliments.

The praise did not stop at Masai Ujiri though. Jerry Stackhouse, coach of the reigning G League Champion 905 spoke fondly of Tolzman, saying that he could not ask for a better General Manager for the team.

Dan Tolzman may spend the majority of his time behind the scenes, but when it comes to the Raptors success as both a team and an organization, he is right at the forefront.

Watch the whole episode here: