Suddenly the suits are news – Tim Leiweke is The Man at MLSE


I don’t like asking you, Gentle Reader, to spend a lot of your precious time reading about Toronto Raptors’ front-office activities. We all enjoy what’s happening on the hardwood, not the boardroom. However, I can’t ignore the bombshell news of the arrival of Tim Leiweke as Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment’s [MLSE, which owns the Raps, the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, MLS’s Toronto FC, and many more properties] new CEO.

Apr 2, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Phil Jackson (left) and Jeannie Buss stand with Los Angeles Lakers former player Shaquille O’Neal.

There are so many more questions than answers today. Why did Leiweke, so hugely successful in building up Phil Anschutz’s sporting properties, step aside to take the MLSE job? Will Leiweke extend Bryan Colangelo’s contract as Raps’ President, or kick him to the curb? Will the ground actually shift at the Air Canada Centre to such a degree that the Raps replace the Maple Leafs as MLSE’s top priority? Will Leiweke ask Phil Jackson to join him to help run the Raps as a sort of eminence grise? There’s no way at the moment to do much more than speculate on a few of these questions, so here goes.

Phil Jackson, the architect of 11 total championships in Chicago and with the Los Angeles Lakers, boasts the greatest track record of any NBA coach in history. If he wants to join Leiweke in Toronto, he should be welcomed with open arms. All the noise about how players don’t want to join the Raps would instantly cease. For purposes of this article, I’m going to assume the Zen Master is coming.

Colangelo will be retained, but only if he accepts Jackson as Special Adviser (or some such hokey title). Whether BC will accept that implied rebuke, or resign in protest, is beyond my ken; if I had to guess, I’d say BC, who really wants to see his rebuild of the Raps prove successful, would accept Jackson’s participation. Someone else, like Maurizio Gherardini, will lose the game of Musical (Executive) Chairs. How much high-priced help do you really need, BC? It’s not a matter of money (MLSE is drowning in it), but more a sense that if Phil Jackson is first among equals, how many other advisers should be at the table before it’s all too much.

Apr 12, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey talks to his team during a break in the action against the Chicago Bulls during the second half at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Chicago 97-88. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Dwane Casey gets about 30 games next season to prove his worth. I believe Jackson when he says he doesn’t want to coach anymore, but he might accept an interim role if the Raps get off to another dismal start and Casey gets the chop.

The NBA announces that the 2016(?) All-Star Game will be played in Toronto. Tim Lieweke, satisfied that the Raps are in good order, turns his attention towards moving an NFL franchise north of the U.S. border for the first time.

We’re nowhere near finished on Tim Lieweke, but this post is done. Consider it Part One of an series with an unknowable number of entries. What is knowable is the fact the Raptors are suddenly sexy.

What impact do you think the arrival of Lieweke will have on the Raps? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments.

Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.