Bryan Colangelo has pushed (almost) all the right buttons in his first offseason in charge of the Sixers, supplementing a young core with a solid cast of vets to show them the ropes. The franchise looks to be on the right track, barring some important moves with the bigs, to take their first big step forward this season.
On today’s episode of The Vertical Podcast, Colangelo discussed his biggest point of emphasis upon taking over the franchise. He told Adrian Wojnarowski the dreaded c-word was at the top of his list:
More than anything the word everyone throws around immediately is culture, but really, factually, there was a losing culture. There was a losing mindset. It had been ingrained, partly because of the undertaking of rebuilding they had been going through.
It’s a byproduct of the rebuilding process, you’re going to lose some games along the way and it becomes part of the fabric of the team and the organization. I think more than anything a mindset needed to shift, the mindset needed to change. That’s why we’ve been talking about winning and doing everything to promote winning, promote a culture of excellence, to promote better thought process in everything.
Coach Brown deserves tremendous credit for what he was able to accomplish over those years, not so much in the win-loss column obviously, but the way he kept the ship afloat, the way he kept players thinking, ‘let’s try, let’s win.’ But they just didn’t have the talent quite frankly to win the games, to finish the games. If we played 40 minute games we probably would have more than 10 wins last year... The team just quite frankly couldn’t finish.
I think now with an infusion of talent, with a new mindset both management and coaching across the board, internally we’re looking at everything completely different.
The love for Coach Brown seems incompatible with the team having a “losing culture”, given that his biggest strength was keeping the team together through tough times and ensuring his guys continued to play hard as they took their lumps. It’d be silly to contest his point about level of talent, but the organization took steps forward in several ways over the last few seasons, most notably with the construction of a new practice facility that Colangelo will reap the benefits from.
Aside from some general gushing over the team’s young talent, the other notable part of the interview was the discussion over his GM candidacy prior to being hired by the 76ers. Colangelo admitted that the organization’s tune changed between their first and second meetings, yet continued to deny the involvement of his father, Jerry Colangelo, in the hiring process:
I was moving forward regardless. The first time that I met with David Blitzer and Josh Harris, I basically told them I’m not the guy for this job. I suggested a few other people, one in particular that I thought would be ideal to come in and compliment Sam [Hinkie], kind of help take this thing to the next level. They were a little bit stunned at my reaction, a little bit stunned at my suggestion.
A good month-and-a-half passed, and they called me back and said, ‘We want to revisit, would you be interested?’ This time I said, ‘Sure, I’ll listen but I’m not sure things have changed.’
But their approach changed. Obviously that approach was something where I wouldn’t be coming in to work with Sam, underneath Sam, it was I was going to be coming in to be the lead in terms of basketball operations, and work with Sam in another regard. That was on interest to me, that’s what I thought my strong suit was, to lead an organization in that regard.
Jerry [Colangelo], much to everyone else’s perhaps speculation, was not involved in that process at all. In fact, he had removed himself from that argument long ago. When I first became a candidate, and I first met with them along with a couple people that were players in the argument, at the end of the day he was not involved from that point forward.
These ideas seem completely incoherent. If in fact the elder Colangelo had no involvement with the hiring process — and was there during the early stages — this would suggest the team didn’t approach Bryan until sometime late in December or after the new year. Jerry was hired on December 8, and the team would have had the worst of their struggles behind them when Harris and Blitzer suggested the first partnership-style with Hinkie.
Nothing much changed on-court or in terms of future assets between that period and the alleged 1.5 months later, when ownership supposedly changed their tune. For ownership to have pivoted on what they believed that quickly and without other drastic changes, the influence of an outside force (aka Jerry Colangelo) is the only logical explanation.
This stuff matters for reasons beyond Bryan Colangelo. For all intents and purposes, he has done well to take measured steps and avoid big mistakes, setting the team up for short and long-term success.
But what are we to make of ownership? Just a couple years ago, we thought they had patience, vision and the courage to take big risks, starting with the Andrew Bynum trade and peaking with The Process era. The more we hear from the organization, however, it feels more like they’re trying too hard to please everyone instead of sticking to a core philosophy. If indeed Jerry had no impact during the time period where they changed their minds, it reads like an ownership group who has no idea what it wants, susceptible to rash decisions at any moment.
You can listen to the full podcast here or below, and soon enough we can focus on how well this team can actually play basketball. For now, I continue to be perplexed at the mixed messages concerning how and why decisions are made in the organization.