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Raptors Introduce Key Addition Stefanski In Toronto

October 27, 2011
Jay Satur - Raptors.com/>

As the Raptors prepare for life in a changed economic landscape and renew their pursuit of on-court success, team president and GM Bryan Colangelo has a new second-in-command to help behind the scenes.

Thursday saw the team introduce Ed Stefanski as its new Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations after a lengthy search concluded with his hiring earlier this week.

Here are some of the more interesting quotes and notes from the Q & A session that took place on the newly refurbished Raptors practice court.

"I've had the opportunity in Philadelphia to have numerous teams ask for permission to talk to me and I talked to Bryan for most of the summer and I was focused in on this particular job. I like what's happening here and I feel very comfortable living in this kind of setting." - Stefanski

Repping our great city aside, you genuinely get the sense that Stefanski sees plenty of appeal with this franchise despite the fact that it remains in rebuilding mode. With potential cap space, a young core, future picks and a GM who isn't shy about making moves, the tools to meet a major challenge are there and Stefanski (a self-described "positive thinker") believes he can work with them.

"From my mentor Rod Thorn who says 'if you pay them, they will come.'" - Stefanski

Stefanski's thoughts on luring free agents to Toronto and it's hard to argue that yes, our wacky multi-coloured currency is still legal tender and a huge factor for NBA players seeking a home. Of course, if you build a winner, they will also come, but the vibe on Thursday was that the Raptors seem wisely intent on becoming a contender via the draft and through trades.

"We have a very talented and resourceful staff and group in place, but there was something that we wanted to address." - Colangelo

There was plenty of speculation as to the motivation for Stefanski's hire and his eventual title and that was put into focus Thursday. This was a move suggested by Colangelo well over a year ago and deemed even more necessary with the departure of Ujiri. It wasn't until after Colangelo's own contract was extended that the search truly got underway.

As for the title, it was never about Colangelo stepping back from a hands-on role with the team, but more about adding an experienced voice with GM credentials. At the end of the day, Colangelo keeps both titles with Stefanski in the newly-created Executive Vice President role.

Stefanski was one of four names most frequently mentioned for the post, with Jeff Bower, Kevin Pritchard and Dennis Lindsay also among that group. Colangelo revealed Thursday that the list was initially as large as 12 names before an extensive interview process saw Stefanski emerge as the desired candidate.

"We're very happy with our offseason. We've made a lot of headway in a lot of different areas."- Colangelo

Michael Grange of Sportsnet summed this up very well yesterday and it was reinforced today: during a time when other teams are getting leaner, the Raptors continue to go the other way. This team has changed coaches and other bench staff as well as created new titles for director of sports science Alex McKechnie and now Stefanski as the team's executive vice president of basketball operations.

Of course, these moves don't ensure the Raptors anything as they try and claw their way to championship contention, but you certainly can't accuse them of apathy or frugality these last few months.

"Depending on what we have as options in front of us, we may be looking at a year where we actually take a step back. Not step back in terms of talent, because we are where we are in terms of guaranteed contracts, but adding to that in a very strategic, precise and patient way. Making sure that flexibility we've worked so hard to get does not get disrupted." - Colangelo

Maybe not what you want to hear if you're a fan dying for a return to the postseason, but in terms of big picture thinking, this should be music to a whole lot of ears. Forget spending big on pieces to surround one or two stars, the Raptors seem poised to stay the course with organic growth of its young talent, add at least two key rookies in 2012-13 and judiciously add free agents that fit in subsequent seasons. Look no further than some of last season’s standout teams like the Thunder, Bulls, Blazers and Spurs as examples of how to thrive going that route.

"With the level of experience that he brings, having been in my position, sat in my chair before, I can tell you that succession planning is definitely thought of in an important regard here. With this organization, it's important when you've got size and scope of business that we have, that you have things in place. I wanted someone and I believe the board wanted someone that had GM credentials and we talked about that when we were assessing some of the things I was looking for." - Colangelo

This was somewhat of curve ball from Colangelo as it represents one of the first times he's really discussed the possibility of moving on from his current role with the team. Colangelo went on to add that he has absolutely no intentions of leaving his current post or changing his role any time soon, but his current two-year pact and the addition of a very experienced second-in-command in Stefanski adds some weight to those comments.

Colangelo also added that Stefanski will be taking a prominent role in the scouting and draft processes for the Raptors going forward.