Raptors boss has ties to Phil Jackson
by Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
The latest NBA team linked to Phil Jackson’s potential comeback is north of the border.
When the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment made a bold hire by veteran sports executive Tim Leiweke as its president and CEO on Friday, Jackson became an immediate possibility to run the Toronto Raptors.
Leiweke, who will report to the MLSE board, was the president and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the Los Angeles Kings, Los Angeles Galaxy, a stake in the Los Angeles Lakers and Staples Center, among other arenas and businesses.
Leiweke and Jackson talked recently, but Leiweke denied it was about Jackson joining the Raptors.
“Phil and I talked this week, but only because he had heard the rumors about Toronto and just called to tell me what a great city it is. It’s too early to speculate,” Leiweke said. “I’m not going to deny Phil and I are friends and that we had an amazing run here.”
He later reiterated a position with the Raptors was not part of the conversation.
“We didn’t have any of those conversations nor was it appropriate,” Leiweke said. “I felt like it was inappropriate to have any discussions until we finalized the deal and announced it, and in turn, he was calling to tell me best of luck. He’s a friend. I hear from him occasionally.
“His fiancée (Lakers chairman Jeanie Buss) is still a very good friend of mine, and I talk to her often. This was more about our relationship than it was anything. I have not had those conversations with Phil.”
While it may not have been appropriate to have that discussion with Jackson this week, it may be appropriate in the future.
Leiweke joins Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment with a grand vision for the Raptors, saying the team should “aspire to be the (Chicago) Bulls, (New York) Knicks, Lakers, (Miami) Heat.”
“I’ll be honest with you, I was a little puzzled when I was learning and doing some due diligence on the Raptors, that there seemed to be some belief and people speculated that it was a place players didn’t want to go to or players … [For more on New Toronto Raptors boss has ties to Phil Jackson, click here.]