Despite being turned into a black-and-white device in the era of Twitter, critique is best served alongside a helping of nuance. There is room to say Sam Hinkie could have done better at his job without painting him as a numbers-only nerd, for example, or to say that replacing him warranted a larger, more methodical search.
But forget nuance for a second, and let's make something clear: Jerry Colangelo and Joshua Harris are asking the public to accept half-truths, fabrications and/or impure intentions, and I'm not willing to acquiesce.
To start Bryan Colangelo's intro presser Sunday afternoon, the Sixers announced that part of his installation would involve another shake-up in the power structure. The press release reads:
As part of the transition, Jerry Colangelo will relinquish the role of Chairman of Basketball Operations and remains as a special advisor to Harris.
At a critical juncture in the team's timeline -- armed with top odds in the lottery for the first time during the rebuild, in addition to gobs of cap space and multiple first-round picks -- Jerry put plans in motion to push out the incumbent GM and install another, his own son, absent of a real process to vet and discover the best candidate.
Harris didn't go into detail about the hiring "process", refusing to specify the number of candidates the team spoke to, saying, "I don't think the number is important. Not that many, but some."
On other fronts, the number of candidates is either growing, being miscommunicated or outright fabricated.
A source high within the Sixers power structure initially indicated to Liberty Ballers that the list of candidates was in the mid-50s before being narrowed down to Bryan. As of today, there have been indications from Sixers season ticket reps that "over 70" candidates were considered for the job eventually awarded to the younger Colangelo.
That's a pretty significant difference; one could even suggest a group of 15-ish names would be enough for a full search on its own, provided they were thoroughly vetted and put through the ringer. In a vacuum, this isn't necessarily an indictment of the organization. I'm sure there are overzealous ticket reps trying to push product by any means necessary.
But their information isn't just plucked out of thin air. They are employed by the same organization asking you to believe that the hiring of Jerry's son as the primary basketball decision maker is a total coincidence, that the father had no involvement in the hiring process.
That's not a misrepresentation or hyperbole for effect -- Harris truly thinks you'll believe this is how it went down:
I understand the optics of it, but the reality is Bryan was head and shoulders above every other candidate, so the optics are something we're now managing with you all, but I went with Bryan because he was the best guy for the job. Jerry truthfully, to be fair to Bryan and to be fair to himself, recused himself from the process and wasn't involved... It just so happens Bryan was the best guy for the job and we also had his Hall of Fame dad in the organization.
Harris must think the people who follow this team are all colossal idiots. Surely this is all a coincidence! Just as it was a coincidence that Klutch Sports, the firm that now counts Ben Simmons as a client, hired his sister prior to him signing with the agency. Just like it was a coincidence that a school Colangelo owns stock in hired Dan Majerle to coach after a strange push-out of the team's former coach.
And I'm sure it's a coincidence that Jerry was (reportedly) trying to convince the Sixers to hire his son prior to taking the post that led to this series of events:
Day after Jerry's hiring, I asked him how long before Bryan replaces Hinkie. Said he tried 3x to get Sixers 2 hire Bryan but they wanted him— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) April 10, 2016
Even if I was inclined to believe the hiring process was on the up and up, conducted in a way that truly did conclude Bryan Colangelo was the top choice in a large field of candidates, it calls into question who made this decision, and what their credentials are. Jerry Colangelo was brought in ostensibly because he was a "basketball guy", and became the top one in the organization upon his hiring.
In effect, this means one of two things transpired. Either:
- Your most trusted basketball mind was not included in the search for the most important decision maker in the basketball ops department, and your "collaboration" was with an unknown group of people who have little/no credibility as it pertains to making the correct hire
- You hired your GM sans process, relenting to the demands of a power-grabbing executive who wanted to give his son another shot at the big time, allowing nepotism to win out
Neither option is good.
In addition, a primary point of contention during Sam Hinkie's tenure was his lackadaisical (at best) approach to handling the media. Even if I think the act of drawing throwaway quotes from a figure who is motivated to hide true intentions from the public is asinine, it is assumed to be part of the gig. It's a fair enough criticism to make. And yet the elder Colangelo, brought in to heal wounds with the media and front offices around the league, has doubled down on the very tactics employed by Hinkie at a time when clarity is needed most.
Colangelo was explicitly brought here to tighten up the areas Hinkie was "lacking" in, which makes his inability to deliver any sort of public accountability over the last week completely inexcusable, and vanishing into the Arizona sands only exacerbates that fact. What Hinkie did over the last few years can at least be explained away by a belief in the strategic value of silence; Colangelo's Houdini act at a massive turning point for the franchise is leagues more despicable, given the only value provided is preservation of his own image and "integrity".
In retrospect, his shady tactics should have been obvious from miles away -- this is the man who Adrian Wojnarowski revealed to have outright fabricated stories about Gregg Popovich:
In an interview with me in 2005, Colangelo said, Popovich "had a bad taste in his mouth regarding his most recent experiences with USA Basketball, some bitterness, and that came out in my conversation with him. He seemed burned out by it. ... He just wasn't as enthusiastic as Mike."
Those comments to Yahoo Sports - along with other public statements - moved Popovich to write a letter to Colangelo that was carbon copied to several top officials in the league office, league sources told Yahoo Sports. In the letter, Popovich essentially told Colangelo: Don't you dare suggest that I had anything but a deep desire to be the USA's national coach. Mostly, Pop told him: Just stop talking about me.
But in the end, Jerry Colangelo's duplicity is not even the primary concern here. He will presumably ride off into a Phoenix sunset, chiming in when it seems convenient for ownership to use him as an appeal to authority.
No, the problem here is ownership simply not having their shit together. The consequence of their double talk is that they can be judged for their actions regardless of whether they stem from incompetence or deceitfulness. Both are red flags for a billion-dollar organization competing for a prize awarded to just 1/30 groups in any given year.
If the Sixers are earnest about transitioning to a new era and phase of the rebuild, a change in tactics is necessary on several fronts. Being forthcoming about their decision-making process would be a good place to start.
(ed. note: h/t to @Hoop76 for their digging up of the Pop+Majerle stories, which first resurfaced on their Twitter)