It's already been established how excited we'd be if the Sixers appointed Tom Penn as their next General Manager in succession of Rod Thorn. But some people have their doubts, be it due to him not starting out in basketball or his affinity for advanced statistics (this one has a very small minority of confused naysayers).
Tom Penn was Portland's assistant GM and then vice president of basketball operations for four seasons. He served as the salary cap expert/specialist under former Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard. The two are close friends and were considered a 2-man team, with Pritchard (a former NBA player), handling basketball evaluation decisions and Penn, (a former lawyer), advising on the financial decisions. Pritchard is now the GM of the Indiana Pacers.
Penn, currently an ESPN analyst, was abruptly fired in 2010 a few months before Pritchard was fired on the night of the 2010 NBA Draft. Penn had previously been a candidate for Minnesota's GM job that ultimately went to David Kahn. There were many rumors regarding his departure, centered around his working relationship with team president Larry Miller, who reported directly to owner Paul Allen and wanted to consolidate the team's business and basketball decisions under his authority, while the basketball operations staff reportedly desired more direct lines of communication with ownership. The official reason for his firing was "philosophical differences." Here's Dave's piece on the firing at the time.
The Pritchard/Penn era was defined by an emphasis on the Spurs model: find a Big 3 and target cheap, interchangeable role pieces to surround them. The duo was known for swinging a large volume of Draft trades and looking for ways to find competitive advantages, such as stashing players overseas.
With Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden, the team looked headed for a long-term era of high-caliber play, but injuries to Roy and Oden derailed the plans and organizational in-fighting ultimately cost Pritchard and Penn their jobs. During the time period, they brought over Rudy Fernandez from Spain, tried and failed to throw a monster offer at Hedo Turkoglu, and signed Andre Miller as a free agent, among other moves.
Penn is a very intense and driven person. His knowledge of the Collective Bargaining Agreement is said to be self-taught and he chafes a bit when he's only referred to as a cap expert, pointing to his time working with Jerry West with the Memphis Grizzlies as an example of his basketball-side experience and knowledge base.
He happened to find himself in the middle of one of the more bizarre Blazers stories in recent memory, when Zig Ziegler a sports kinestiologist with a rap sheet blasted Portland's medical staff for their handling of Greg Oden and said that Penn was the only member of Blazers management who seemed to support his alternative approach to treatment. Penn would not comment and Ziegler was recently arrested on financial fraud charges. Full investigation here.
Penn conducted this interview with us all the way back in 2008.
I'm a pretty avid reader of Blazers Edge (it's fantastic) so I've seen a few things Ben linked for us -- the Greg Oden piece especially, natch.
The bit about getting a big three then working with cap-flexible interchangeable pieces from there is my favorite. You think he would've offered Louis Williams 5 years? What about Aaron McKie an 84-year contract. How about Kenny Thomas? Everything is about getting your star or stars, then keeping the cap low enough so you have the flexibility to go out and find pieces when you need them. If Oden and/or Roy stayed healthy, you gotta think Penn is already a GM somewhere else. Bad luck, that.
Also, how crazy would it be to have an active GM during the draft? The Sixers traded back in to get Arnett Moultrie and my head started bleeding out of shock. And stashing second-rounders in Europe! Man, that'd be wild.
I want Tom Penn. I want him bad. If they decide to hire Jeff Bower, I will be sad.