Longtime readers of Liberty Ballers will remember a fiery, less-podcasty Michael Levin leading the charge for a full-scale rebuild long before the Sixers ever set off down this path. If not a complete teardown, a shot at something beyond mediocrity was what this fanbase wanted.
That lust for avoiding the middle ground has led many of us -- myself included -- to conflate Sam Hinkie's role in The Process™ with the act of the rebuild itself. Hiring Jerry Colangelo should serve as a reminder that this has always been, and will always be much bigger than one person.
This is not to belittle what Hinkie has done to accumulate all that he has in the short time he's been in Philadelphia. Given what he started with, it's amazing that the Sixers have managed to acquire and reclaim as many picks and related assets as they have under his watch. It's not a job any GM off the street could have done.
Despite his prominence during the stripdown portion of the proceedings, that does not make Hinkie the arbiter of building through the lottery. People have supported his course of action to begin with because the idea is only unique in its extremity; rebuilding on the strength of top draft choices is a time-tested formula.
Hinkie was a breath of fresh air precisely because he has been given the leverage to enact a plan many pined for over the course of a decade plus. I believe he is a supremely intelligent guy, given his background and proven ability to exploit the NBA's loopholes to his advantage. He has put the team in great position for success over the long-term, even if the major choices of his tenure to date -- namely, the draft picks -- don't work out. The team has an abundance of picks, young players, and money to throw around in years to come.
At the joint presser yesterday, Hinkie said he thrives on collaboration and exchanging ideas. This has always been the point of analytics generally -- to add context to what we see on the court, and to help spark conversations about talent evaluation that otherwise would not happen. If the Sixers are going to add a voice to their internal conversations, there are few more qualified than Colangelo. His success in the basketball world speaks for itself; he has brokered deals for superstars (unfortunately the Sixers were on the wrong end of that one) and rebuilt USA Basketball in a time of weakness.
But focusing specifically on his basketball achievements misses the full scope. Keep in mind that Colangelo was essential in hiring the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks staff that built a World Series title team three years after their inaugural season. Colangelo was similarly instrumental in early success for the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the AFL's Arizona Rattlers.
Colangelo is a man who knows a hell of a lot about building something, period, in part because he's comfortable working collaboratively. He is renowned as a relationship builder, which is important for a team that has suffered some serious PR hits as a direct byproduct of their strategy, to say nothing of whatever synergy he can foster internally.
It's even possible that Colangelo is meant to appease someone -- minority owners? disgruntled fans? ornery media? -- without much consideration for power dynamics. It's fun to imagine him as Harvey Dent to Hinkie's Batman, a crusading public symbol that can stir hope while the cloaked hero pulls strings and fights crime in the darkness. Both are important and ideally could combine into one person, but all that matters for the franchise is that the duo succeeds, period.
The path to relevance has never been about one man, though the last couple years made it feel as though it is Sam Hinkie & The Process Trusters vs. The World. Whether it's Harris enabling such a drastic rebuild, Brett Brown motivating the players, Hinkie recouping assets, or whatever Colangelo has to offer, they need the whole village.
Hiring Colangelo could indeed turn out to be the beginning of the end for Hinkie in Philadelphia. Even if that day arrives sooner than some of us imagined, we are a long way from the franchise losing sight of what matters most.
Sam Hinkie is probably "my guy" and "your guy" by default at this point. But the Sixers are my team, the franchise I will support out of a mix of local pride and insanity until they put me in a pine box, and I do not care who leads them back to prominence so long as they get there. They added another intelligent mind to the mix, and I'm happy to sit back and see how it unfolds.