Last June, the Toronto Raptors hired Maurizio Gherardini to become their team’s vice president and assistant general manager. Gherardini was hired to work under Raptors president and general manager, Bryan Colangelo.
Why was this a significant hire for the NBA? Gherardini became the first European to hold a senior management position with an NBA team. In 1992, Gherardini joined Euroleague's Benetton Treviso and the club has experienced a great deal of success since then. With his leadership, the club became a training ground in Europe, and NBA personnel flocked there to scout players. He led Benetton to four league championships in 1997, 2002, 2003, and 2006. Benetton also won seven Italian Cups, three Italian Supercups, two Eurocups, and four times reached the Euroleague’s Final Four. Gherardini’s squads included NBA players Nickoloz Tskitishvili, Uros Slokar, Jorge Garbajosa, and Andrea Bargnani among others.
Upon hiring Colangelo, Gherardini said, “We are thrilled to have a globally esteemed basketball executive like Maurizio Gherardini join the Toronto Raptors. This is a ground-breaking move for the league, appropriately with the NBA's only true international franchise.”
Additionally, Gherardini was quoted as saying: “What made Toronto very special was actually the real opportunity to enter in some capacity the brainstorming process of an NBA team.”
With the idea that Toronto is not an attractive market for many NBA free agents, it became obvious that Colangelo and Gherardini wanted to add players from overseas in order to improve their team. Bargnani (drafted with the first pick in 2006), Jose Calderon (Spain), Jorge Garbajosa (Benetton), Rasho Nesterovic (Spurs, Slovenia), Anthony Parker (Maccabi Tel Aviv, Bradley), and Uros Slokar (Bennetton) were brought in. This offseason, Toronto traded for Carlos Delfino, who had previously played three seasons with Detroit. Delfino was born in Argentina and had yet to reach his potential with the Pistons.
Colangelo and Gherardini have shown that they properly value the international game and know how to compare values. Players like Garbajosa and Parker are glue guys, and will continue to help the Raptors maintain their playoff stature. Although many of the top players overseas are fans of the NBA, they often do not want to leave a place where they are highly regarded to come to the United States where they are just another player. Gherardini is able to help to sell them on the idea of coming to the league.
Along with helping to attract international talent, Gherardini was also brought in to evaluate the talent here in the states. Colangelo will not be asking him to evaluate the finances of the team and to make decisions based on the league's collective bargaining agreement, but to evaluate the talent that is in the United States and around the globe. This is the aspect of senior management that Gherardini has and will continue to excel at. With Gherardini and Colangelo at the helm, the Raptors will certainly look to improve the Raptors franchise and top last years 47-win seaspm.