Raptors fire GM Rob Babcock

Babcock was in the second year of his contract with the club

Needing to do something to turn their season around, the Toronto Raptors fired general manager Rob Babcock on Thursday.

Hall of Fame player Wayne Embry, a senior advisor to the team, will take over as GM on an interim basis.

"It was a tough decision, but one that we feel is in the best long-term interest of our franchise," Richard Peddie, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment president, told reporters at a Thursday afternoon press conference.

The search for Babcock's full-time successor is already underway, said Peddie.

"A general manager is evaluated in large part by the results of his decisions. Unfortunately, those results have not met our expectations," Peddie said, in explaining the decision to fire Babcock.

Babcock, who joined the Raptors on June 7, 2004, in his first GM stint, was in the second year of a four-year deal with the team.

"I'm disappointed that Rob was the wrong choice for us," said Peddie, who hired Babcock. "In hindsight [I] should have got someone who was more proven."

Even though the Raptors went 47-78 during his tenure as GM, Babcock said he was "very optimistic" about the club's future.

"I'm proud of what we did here. I know it's a losing record, but I'm proud of where we got the team to this point.

"I think it's on the right track," said Babcock. "I was very pleased with the progress that we made, very pleased with the young players ... I think the nucleus is here for the future of this team to grow and develop."

The Raptors (14-29) have lost three straight, including a 122-104 decision in Los Angeles Sunday in which Laker guard Kobe Bryant scored 81 points – the second-highest point total in NBA history.

Only New York (13-27), Atlanta (11-29) and Charlotte (11-32) have poorer records than Toronto.

Babcock made headlines in the local media last summer when he admitted the club would be hard-pressed to match their win total from a season ago – the Raptors finished the 2004-05 campaign tied for 23rd in the NBA with a 33-49 record.

The team also missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

The Raptors continued to struggle this season, posting a horrendous 1-15 record to begin the campaign.

Toronto went 7-7 during December – and is 6-7 thus far in January – but still sit in second-last place in the Atlantic Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference, four places out of a playoff berth.

Babcock's tenure was also marked by questionable moves and decisions.

He was criticized when he signed free-agent point guard Rafer Alston to $30-million US, six-year deal in July 2004 – Alston was traded to Houston this past October – and most especially when he sent franchise player Vince Carter to the New Jersey Nets last December.

In return for Carter, the Raptors received Aaron Williams and Eric Williams, Alonzo Mourning, who cost the club $10 million US to buy him out of his contract, and two draft picks.

Babcock also faced criticism when he used the No. 8 pick in the 2004 NBA draft on centre Rafael Araujo and the seventh overall pick last year on forward Charlie Villanueva.

While Villanueva has been a pleasant surprise, Araujo has struggled the last two seasons.

Coming off a 104-88 loss to Chicago at home on Wednesday, the Raptors travel to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks Friday night.