Yesterday's firing of Eddie Jordan was a mere formality, speculated about since December, assumed since January, and imminent once the season concluded. The only intrigue around the situation was when, not if, Eddie Jordan would be let go. The real question comes down to who should be running the search for the next coach.
When did things get so bad for Stefanski? It seems like only a short time ago he was shedding cap space to sign a max free agent while simultaneously creating playing time for an up-and-comer who helped propel the Sixers to a surprise playoff appearance. Since then, with the lone exception of drafting Jrue Holiday, not one move can be called an unqualified success. If there is no faith in Stefanski at this point, which move was the nail in the coffin?
Andre Iguodala Extension
Even if you believe Andre Iguodala is not overpaid, it's hard to argue that anyone was going to give him that money in the open market. What was the risk in letting it play out the way Atlanta did with Josh Smith? At nearly $2 million per year lower than Iguodala, with a contract length one year shorter, Smith's contract is much more trade-friendly than Iguodala's, and Smith was arguably the more coveted player at the time. The Sixers had all the leverage in the negotiations, with nobody able to offer what the Sixers gave Iguodala, yet they caved. Perhaps Iguodala could have accepted the qualifying offer and become an unrestricted the following season. Even so, the Sixers would have still been able to offer him the most and would have had the upper hand.
The Sixers had the opportunity to get a player at below market value and failed to capitalize. Now many people believe Iguodala should be moved, more because of his salary than his play.
Signing Elton Brand
This one is obvious. While the move was generally lauded at the time, it has become an unqualified disaster. Signing a 29 year old big man coming who had played just 8 games after returning from a major injury was inherently risky, which became even riskier by investing 5 years and $80 million in him. Did Stefanski know the decline in Basketball Related Income would be as steep as it has been? No, and that has certainly made a bad signing worse. That being said, the success of a move can only be judged in hindset, and all of the areas of concern at the time of the signing have turned out to be true. The signing has been an unmitigated disaster.
Not resigning Andre Miller
Andre Miller is one of the two major differences between the playoff teams of the previous two years and the abject failure that was this season. Was Andre Miller taken for granted? Perhaps. That being said, I don't think Andre Miller's loss was the major catalyst behind this years collapse -- Miller wasn't the reason the Sixers were a bottom 5 defensive team for the first half of the season -- and furthermore I don't think it was a mistake. For as horrible as this season was, signing a 33 year old point guard to a 3 year deal to try to win 38 games, lose in the first round, and stunt Jrue Holiday's development wasn't the answer. In the end, I'd rather have the opportunity to see what we have in Jrue and know we have the point guard of the future. Add in the fact that we're looking at a top 7 pick instead of 15+, and that we have less of a chance to be over the luxury tax and I can't fault Stefanski for this one.
(Do I think the move was necessarily to develop Jrue? Maybe not. Stefanski's hand may have been forced by Comcast due to monetary concerns. That being said, lucking your way into the right decision doesn't change the final verdict of the decision).
Hiring Eddie Jordan
Does this even need to be talked about anymore? Thursday was the end of an error, a ridiculously bad coach that fit horribly with the personnel, and who was condescending while failing. The fact that the hiring smelled of cronyism only makes matters worse.
Which one was the worst? Had it not been for the hiring of Eddie Jordan, i would probably be willing to overlook Stefanski's prior mistakes and give him the chance to clean up his mess. While the signing of Elton Brand will have more long-term ramifications to the club, the hiring of Eddie Jordan speaks louder on Stefanski's judgement and the faith I have in him going forward. At the very least I can explain the Elton Brand mistake, something I can't even fathom doing for the Jordan hiring. The analysts questioned Jordan, as did the reporters, as well as the bloggers and the fans. The only one deceived by the "chalk talk" was Stefanski, and for that I understand the movement to make a change at the top.
Can Stefanski succeed?
Critical to the argument of whether Stefanski should return is whether he is in a position he can succeed. Even if you have faith in his judgement, the fact is Stefanski is on the hot seat. Not having job security is sure to influence his future decisions.
Would Stefanski be willing to hire a young coach, or is he going to try to get a known commodity who he feels can win now and save his job? Would he be willing to make roster moves to rebuild this team at its foundation, or is his lack of job security going to force him to try to win now, committing the Sixers to 5 more years of mediocrity?
If Stefanski doesn't have the job security to make the moves necessary to move this team towards being a title contender, even if it means taking a step backwards, he needs to be replaced with someone who will have that latitude. A general manager in a "win now" mode that has just enough talent to be mediocre can be a dangerous combination.