The Brooklyn Nets entered and left Toronto without a win, a firm head coach, or a general manager. But they might be starting to make progress on at least one of those three things.
In the days that have followed that fateful Sunday, in which head coach Lionel Hollins was fired and general manager Billy King “re-assigned” to a still-undefined position within the team’s front office, the name Bryan Colangelo has popped up numerous times. It’s a natural fit: an Executive of the Year Award winner with two different teams, Colangelo has taken franchises from doldrums to Division titles before, one of them being these Toronto Raptors.
When asked by reporters about Colangelo, members of the Raptors organization didn’t hold back in their praise. From NorthJersey.com:
Just ask current Raptors GM Masai Ujiri. Colangelo hired Ujiri as his assistant in 2008. Ujiri went on to win NBA Executive of the Year as the Nuggets’ GM, before replacing Colangelo in 2013.
“He’s one of the hardest working guys in the business,” Ujiri told The Record. “He’s very knowledgeable, very experienced and he has a will to win. Basketball is his life and he takes this very seriously.
“I learned so much from him,” Ujiri continued. “He’s a creative guy. I think Bryan is somebody that, he’s just somebody that knows how to lead and he definitely deserves to be a leader in our league.”
Wayne Embry, the hall of fame player and two time Executive of the Year, was the interim GM in Toronto before Colangelo took over. Embry, who was a senior basketball advisor during Colangelo’s Raptors’ tenure, was especially impressed with his resilience as an executive.
“We as general manager’s don’t always make the right decision,” Embry said. “But he’s always found a way to rectify the situation. He’s always found a way — which I admired about him. If we made a bad signing, he always found a way to get rid of that bad signing, which is not easy to do.”
“I’ve been in this, what, 57 years, and he’s one of brightest young executives that I’ve been around,” Embry continued. “Hopefully he does get a chance. I hope he gets a good shot.”
It wasn’t just the front office. DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors guard that lit up the Nets for 30 points in the 112-100 Raptors win, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and also sung Colangelo’s praises, per the New York Post.
“Oh, man, he’s one of the most stand-up guys I’ve known, ever met coming into the business,” DeMar DeRozan said before the Raptors’ 112-100 victory over the Nets on Monday night.
The Toronto shooting guard is highly regarded not just for his game, but for his loyalty. He said Colangelo earned that loyalty.
“He gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, you know? And I credit a lot of my success to him,” DeRozan said. “[He’s] one of those stand-up honest guys. [He’ll] work extremely hard, and wants the best for whatever organization and players that he’s working for.”
Colangelo won his other Executive of the Year Award with the Phoenix Suns, then coached by now-associate head coach Mike D’Antoni. D’Antoni also sung his praises in that above-linked Post article.
It’s not clear how close the Nets are to hiring anyone for general manager at this point, and Mikhail Prokhorov said last Monday that he would be willing to take his time. For now, the team is run by assistant general manager Frank Zanin, who worked under King starting with King’s days in Philadelphia.