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Basketball Former Raptors GM Rob Babcock dies at 66 after battle with pancreatic cancer

Former Raptors general manager Rob Babcock joins some children at John Wanless public school and its boys basketball team to help launch a charity Toonies for Autism on Feb. 2, 2006.

Jim Ross/The Globe and Mail

Former Toronto Raptors general manager Rob Babcock died on Wednesday. He was 66.

The Minnesota Timberwolves, the team with which Mr. Babcock spent the bulk of his time in the NBA, confirmed Mr. Babcock’s death on Twitter.

Mr. Babcock, who had been battling pancreatic cancer, was hired as the Raptors GM on June 7, 2004, and lasted a year and a half in that role.

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“The Toronto Raptors organization is saddened by the passing of Rob Babcock, who served as our general manager from 2004 to 2006, and continued to serve as a supporter and resource for our organization,” the Raptors said in a statement. “We send our sincere condolences to the Babcock family during this difficult time.”

His time at the helm will be tied to one of the most infamous events in Raptors history. In December, 2004, Babcock traded disgruntled superstar Vince Carter to New Jersey for Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and two first-round draft picks.

The return for the face of the franchise was meagre at best. Mourning refused to report to Toronto and was eventually bought out, heading south to win a championship with the Miami Heat. The other players and the draft picks failed to make much of an impact.

Prior to the trade, Mr. Babcock drew heat for drafting Brazilian big man Rafael Araujo with the eighth-overall pick in the 2004 draft. With the next pick, the Philadelphia 76ers selected Andre Iguodala, who would go on to help the Golden State Warriors win three championships.

After another mediocre draft in 2005 – Mr. Babcock selected Charlie Villanueva and Joey Graham while leaving future all-star Danny Granger on the table – Mr. Babcock was fired on Jan. 26, 2006, and eventually replaced with Bryan Colangelo.

Mr. Babcock did add one of the most popular players in Raptors history when he signed Spanish point guard Jose Calderon before the 2005 season.

Mr. Babcock also spent 12 seasons in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ front office before joining the Raptors, and returned there after being fired by Toronto. He was eventually promoted to the role of vice-president of basketball operations in Minnesota before being fired in May, 2016.

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“I got to know Rob well during his time with the Wolves and considered him a great friend,” Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said in a statement. “For 22 years he played an important role in the day-to-day operations of our basketball front office and was instrumental in shaping our roster during our eight-year playoff run from 1997 through 2004.”

Born in 1953 in Phoenix, Mr. Babcock was head coach at Phoenix College before moving on to the NBA in 1987 as a scout for the Denver Nuggets.

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