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Toronto Raptors President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo speaks to reporters during a press conference to introduce newly-acquired players Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Tuesday, February 17, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Darren Calabrese

Bryan Colangelo's public image never varies. He's always dressed impeccably, shod in fine Italian leather, nothing out of place, or control.

But for the first time since Colangelo swept into Toronto as the most celebrated Raptors signing since pre-fall Vince Carter, there's a sense the tall collars of his hand-sewn shirts might be feeling a little snug.

Interviews with people inside Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., the parent company that owns the NBA franchise, indicate Colangelo has spent a significant proportion of his time and energy deflecting anxious queries from an increasing concerned ownership about the Raptors performance after his hand-picked club crashed to an 11-19 finish after the all-star break and missed the playoffs.

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Since the season ended off-court distractions that have rolled up like waves, be it reports the Raptors' penchant for partying was a factor in their poor performance; the Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James suggesting the team quit down the stretch or the spectre of Chris Bosh toying with fans' sentiments by using his Twitter account to survey opinion of whether or not he should resign in Toronto.

None of which Colangelo can control.

"He came in with great DNA and great credibility and this is a tough time for Bryan," Richard Peddie, the chief executive officer of MLSE, said. "He's feeling it."

Those close to Colangelo describe him variously as humbled, worn and humanized by the recent turn of events. "He's getting banged on by a lot of people," said one source, requesting anonymity. "A lot of people are nervous."

Colangelo is entering the final year of his contract as one of the highest-paid executives in the NBA, befitting a track record that includes two executive-of-the-year awards, including one for his 20-win turnaround of the Raptors in 2006-07, his first full year on the job.

Reports of him being granted an extension on his contract this past February were technically incorrect: The club had an option to terminate their deal with the 44-year-old who cut his teeth in the industry at the right hand of Jerry Colangelo in Phoenix - his father and one of the modern NBA's founding fathers - but chose not to exercise it.

That hardly seemed surprising given the Raptors went into the all-star break with a 29-23 record and standing fifth in the Eastern Conference on the heels of a 33-49 season the year before.

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But will he gain an extension coming off the club's second-straight season out of the playoffs and at risk of losing their best player, Chris Bosh, to free agency?

Peddie remains confident in his team president, but stopped short of saying a contract was in the midst of being inked. "He's in the last year of his contract and we will probably talk to Bryan about an extension but nothing is going on right now," Peddie said. "… Bryan will go to the board in the next month or two and talk about his plan for the next year and everyone will see if Bryan is comfortable with it and we're comfortable with it and that will dictate what we do in the future."

But pressed, Peddie suggested Colangelo will get a chance to rebound from two seasons where the Raptors fell well short of the Colangelo's own public expectations.

"I think he wants to stay [and]it's a two-way street. I still think he's really an excellent choice. I really do," Peddie said. " I look around and think, geez, who else would I want?"

Publicly Colangelo is hardly shrinking from the challenge, sounding almost defiant in his defence of a roster that went 22-10 in between a 7-13 start and its 11-19 finish.

"I don't view this as a team that needs to be dismantled, with or without Chris," he said in interview before leaving for Europe where he will be scouting the Euroleague Final Four in Paris.

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Colangelo has been through challenging times before - the Suns were 29-53 in 2003-04 before he rebuilt them on the fly by acquiring Steve Nash and going on to average 55 wins a year for the next six seasons.

That 40 wins per season the Raptors have averaged under Colangelo falls well short of that, but - as he points out - it is an improvement on the average of 29 wins per season the franchise managed in the previous four years.

"I have an insatiable desire to succeed," he said. "[And]I'm basically looking at the next four years as the next step. This doesn't happen over night. But you deal with [the obstacles]and you keep pressing forward."

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