TORONTO - The Toronto Raptors hired Rob Babcock on Monday to be the team’s general manager, a month after they declined to give him the job.
The Raptors have been looking for a general manager since firing Glen Grunwald on April 1. He was replaced on an interim basis by Jack McCloskey, who favored Babcock from the start.
Babcock interviewed twice for the job several weeks ago, but the Raptors didn’t reach a decision until last Friday.
“Rob was on our list from Day 1, and then we brought him in and he quickly went to the top of that list,” team president Richard Peddie said. “I went back to Rob and said ’Rob, this is such a critical hire for us. I want to make sure you are the right guy. I’m going to do that by doing more homework on you, but I’m also going to look at what else is out there.”’
Babcock spent the last two seasons as the top assistant to Minnesota Timberwolves’ general manager Kevin McHale, serving as the team’s vice president of player personnel.
Peddie also interviewed Julius Erving, who Raptors star Vince Carter backed for the job. The Raptors met with Erving last Thursday, even after McCloskey publicly said Erving was out of the mix earlier in the week.
“It was a communication breakdown and that was my fault,” Peddie said. “He said he was out of the picture, but I had yet to see him.”
McCloskey threatened to quit after being embarrassed.
“He was frustrated,” Peddie said.
A few days later the Raptors decided to give Babcock, who also served as Minnesota’s director of player personnel, a four-year contract with a team option for a fifth.
Babcock said it didn’t bother him that Carter wanted Erving.
“Vince doesn’t know me. I wouldn’t expect him to be overly excited about Rob Babcock,” Babcock said. “I’m not a household name.”
Babcock said he thinks he can build around Carter, though he stopped short of calling the Raptors a playoff team.
“Within two years we’re going to be a very good basketball team,” Babcock said. “I’m not really worried about how many wins we get right away, or whether we make the playoffs within the first year or two. Our goal is to establish our philosophy.”
Hall of Famers Wayne Embry and Alex English will assist Babcock in Toronto.
Embry, who in 1971 became the first black general manager in professional sports when he was hired by the Milwaukee Bucks and later was the GM of the Cleveland Cavaliers, was hired as the special adviser to the general manager. English, 11th on the NBA’s career scoring list with 25,613 points in 15 seasons, will serve as the director of player development and scouting.
The Raptors are also looking for a coach to replace Kevin O’Neill, who was fired after Toronto (33-49) missed the playoffs for a second straight year.
Babcock said he has some people in mind, but declined to identify any potential candidates.
Babcock’s brother, Pete, is a former general manager of the Atlanta Hawks.
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