The Short, But Beautiful Reign of Tim Leiweke


Tim Leiweke’s stay was brief as president and CEO of MLSE, but his mark on Toronto pro sports may last a generation.

After all, it was Leiweke that hired current Raptors GM Masai Ujiri, who in turn pulled off the trade that jump-started the teams rebuilding process by about two years.

Leiweke exerted a win at all costs attitude while in Toronto, and although it didn’t spell immediate success for either the Toronto Maple Leafs, both TFC and the Toronto Raptors are now currently experiencing a renewed sense of hope for the future.

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TFC has made the playoffs for the first time in the club’s eight year history, led by Sebastian Giovinco’s historic season.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Maple Leafs have signed arguably the best head coach in hockey, Mike Babcock, and already look like a team with a lot more pride in how they play this season.

Leiweke did have his obstacles though.

Supposed run-ins with the board, and his controversial decision to remove all the Maple Leafs portraits of past victories from front office headquarters certainly rubbed a few people within the organization the wrong way.

But the truth is that Leiweke, despite his faults, was a man with a plan for victory on the field.

He delivered on that field.

The real challenge now, is whether this can be sustained now that the architect of it all has moved on to a more competitive environment with David Beckham’s MLS ownership group.

Will Masai Ujiri be kept around over the next few years? Will the Raptors continue their relevance now that their GM’s biggest backer has officially left town?

Bigger mistakes have been made in the Toronto sports landscape, and business 101 dictates that a new face in a position of considerable power, will want his or her “people” under them to build a new vision.

Apr 14, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO and president Tim Leiweke during a break in the action of a game between the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

If the Raptors decline or stagnate, Ujiri may be out of here sooner than we think.

MLSE has made that mistake before, when former Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo fired head coach Sam Mitchell after a tough start to the 2008-2009 season.

Mitchell had just won Coach of the Year in 2007, the Raptors were coming off back-to-back playoff appearances, and were only 8-9 to start the season.

Something didn’t seem to add up.

Now there never was any official statement for why the Raptors let go of Mitchell other than that he simply wasn’t good enough anymore, but the characteristics between the two men are oddly similar.

Two stubborn, well-educated men that have a proven track record of winning, but also a history of being confrontational to both their superiors, and their subordinates.

Former Leafs GM Brian Burke obviously falls under this category as well, and he may have felt heat from the brass in this company more than anyone, and we all know what happened right after Burke left.

That’s right, the team he built made the playoffs for the first time since 2004. 

Since Burke left, the Leafs became steadily worse, while Burke’s new team, the Calgary Flames, made the postseason last year when absolutely no one expected them too.

One left voluntarily, the other two were fired, but all three share one glaring similarity.

They were all shown the door prematurely, and in Burke and Mitchell’s case, the situation got immediately worse after they left.

Like, bottom of the league worse.

It just seems a little too convenient that three guys that wanted nothing more than to win, logistics be damned, were shown the door WAY too early.

Did Leiweke suffer the same fate? Was he pushed to the door rather than the public perception of him walking through it to a more lucrative opportunity?

If there is one thing about Leiweke’s track record, it’s that he has never been the type to leave a job half-finished.

None of those three men have that reputation among their colleagues.

Whatever the future holds for either parties, one fact will always remain. If MLSE stays to the road that Tim Leiweke has set them on, there will be many more spoils for them than just the money.

Next: Are Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan Overrated?

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