The Toronto Raptors handled a bit of front office news on Wednesday before entering the NBA’s free agency period that begins this weekend. The team announced a trio of front office promotions, beginning with Bobby Webster who was promoted to general manager, Dan Tolzman who was promoted to assistant general manager/vice president, player personnel and Keith Boyarsky who was promoted to vice president, basketball strategy and research. In the same press release, the team announced that Masai Ujiri will continue to oversee basketball operations as president of the club.
Shortly after the team announced the promotions, Webster met with the media to discuss his new role. Prior to Webster addressing the media for his first time as general manager, he was introduced by Ujiri, who had a few words to say about the front office promotions.
“Another great day, I think, for the Toronto Raptors,” Ujiri said. “Introducing Bobby Webster as our new general manager. I think it’s a long time coming. Bobby came here with me four years ago and has really, really served, grown, been a huge part of this organization. I’m really, really proud. Very well deserved.”
Like he has so many times before, Ujiri once again stressed that the organization’s goal is growth, on and off the floor, for everyone involved.
“With the Raptors, we believe in development,” he said. “It’s not only on-court development, I think front office, coaching, we want to give opportunity, and to give opportunity to a young man like this is very well deserved. I know it’s been a crazy day in the NBA. Today’s all about Bobby Webster, and he deserves it. And also Dan Tolzman and Keith Boyarsky, who were promoted. It’s their day. Everything we’ve done in this organization and going forward, they have contributed in every way that they could and have been a big part of it.”
Like Ujiri, Webster thanked those in attendance for the press conference, joking that he thought it might an empty room with just himself and the Raptors head of public relations present. Despite holding a new title within the organization, Webster pointed to Ujiri’s collaborative working style that allowed all members of the front office to be involved in big decisions and events — the draft, free agency, trades — as helping to keep his new role relatively similar, albeit with a louder voice, to his previous one.
“First off, honestly, I wanted thank Masai, Larry, MLSE and the board for giving me this opportunity,” Webster said. “I think it’s truly a test to their support and belief, not only in me, but as Masai said, kind of growing and developing their employees, and without their support and belief from day one I wouldn’t be in this position. At the same time, it think Keith and Dan, they also feel that and as we all kind of rise up, I think, we don't take it for granted and we’re extremely grateful.
At the same time, we’re ready, we’re confident to continue building a franchise here. Not only the front office, the coaches, the travel staff, you know, we believe in Masai and Masai believes in us so we’ll keep it going."
Webster credited his time with Ujiri and Jeff Weltman, the man he is replacing, after Weltman moved on to an opportunity in Orlando with the Magic, for helping to prepare him for his new role.
“Masai’s been great and every year I’ve been there he’s given me more responsibility,” Webster said. “I’ve learned from him, Jeff, obviously, has a ton of experience [as well]. A lot of the times it’s being a fly on the wall, traveling with them, being in the same room as them. So more experience, new situations and just continuing."
Prior to joining the Raptors in 2013, Webster spent seven seasons working for the NBA’s league office in New York for the NBA’s CBA group. Though most know of Webster’s time with the league office prior to coming to Toronto, on Wednesday he reminded everyone that he actually got his start within the league with a team, working with the Orlando Magic. It was there, he says, that he began thinking about what he’d like to end up doing in the league.
“There’s always been this intrigue, and I think anyone who gets into this business either wants to be a GM or a coach,” he said.
When asked the biggest thing he’s learned from working alongside Ujiri, Webster didn’t hesitate.
“Incredible leader,” Webster said of Ujiri. “That’s a huge thing. He leads with a passion and a purpose that people follow. I don't know if you can learn that but you can emulate it and make it your own."