clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Excerpts from the Sam Hinkie Letter

New, 176 comments

I’ve compiled a list of my favorite quotes from the Sam Hinkie resignation letter.

@samhinkie on Twitter

Following the end of an absolutely amazing season, I felt compelled to re-read the Sam Hinkie resignation letter (correction: 13 page exquisitely crafted manifesto. Thanks, StonerSixer.) The following is a list of my personal favorite excerpts. It seems... timely.

  • “There is signal everywhere that Joel is unique, from the practice gyms in Lawrence, Kansas to Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania to Doha, Qatar where he does something awe inspiring far too regularly.”
  • “Jeff Bezos says it this way: ‘There are a few prerequisites to inventing…You have to be willing to fail. You have to be willing to think long-term. You have to be willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.’”
  • “Check out the 10,000 Year Clock. It is no mere thought experiment, but an actual clock being designed to be placed inside a mountain in West Texas, wound, and left to tick and chime for ten thousand years. Why? Because to design something that lasts that long makes us all consider what the world will look like between now and then. In return, we might be inspired to do something about it.”
  • “If you want to have real success you have to very often be willing to do something different from the herd.”
  • “Wins are a zerogrowth industry (how many of you regularly choose to invest in those?), and the only way up is to steal share from your competitors. You will have to do something different. You will have to be contrarian.”
  • “That means you have to find some way to have a differentiated viewpoint from the masses. And it needs to be right. Anything less won’t work.”
  • “It’s much more comfortable to have people generally agreeing with you..Those opportunities in a constrained environment winnow away with each person that agrees with you, though.. And then, after all that, still have the conviction to separate yourself from the herd.”
  • “Looking at a player with an estimated 10% or 20% chance of being a star over the next three or four years can’t be written to zero..Once you accept that, it becomes clear that shrinking the confidence interval around that estimate becomes pretty darn important.”
  • “There are plenty of caricatures of our approach on your behalf, the most common of which is that folks here don’t even watch the games...There is some mystical way by which we make decisions that doesn’t have anything to do with building a basketball team. That’s simply untrue.”
  • “As I described to you in our first ever board meeting, we were fundamentally aiming for something different—disruption. We should concentrate our efforts in a few key areas in ways others had proven unwilling.”
  • “We should attempt to gain a competitive advantage that had a chance to be lasting, hopefully one unforeseen enough by our competition to leapfrog them from a seemingly disadvantaged position. A goal that lofty is anything but certain. And it sure doesn’t come from those that are content to color within the lines.”
  • “Nobel Prize winning physicist Max Planck got right to it: ‘A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die.’”
  • “I can imagine that some of these sound contradictory: contrarian thinking, but respect for tradition, while looking to disrupt. That yin and yang is part of it—keep looking. Questioning.”
  • “In the press conference announcing my arrival at the Sixers, I said: • Our challenge was not for the faint of heart. It wasn’t. • Our challenge was big enough to humble me to think about the enormity of it. It did. We would have to get so very much right”
  • “The strategy we settled on was straightforward, even if arduous. Replenish the talent pipeline, improve the quality and quantity of players on the roster, shift the style of play towards tomorrow’s champions, and become a culture focused on innovation.”
  • “Specifically, we set out to maximize the odds of acquiring star players using all three available methods of acquiring players (draft, free agency, and trade).”
  • “We determined to play a faster style that recognizes the importance of speed in tomorrow’s NBA and one that quickly integrates young players. We set out to improve our shot selection toward high efficiency basketball. We also wanted to build a defensive identity that—in time—could thwart tomorrow’s high-efficiency offenses. Lastly, we needed to build a world-class training center, develop an ever-evolving player development program, and change the organization’s culture to one of innovation and a constant search for competitive edge. These goals were not to fit some preferred style of play, but instead were aiming for where future champions would be crowned. That original document I gave to Josh and David in 2012 said: History’s lessons are clear, but tomorrow’s championship caliber teams may break from historical trends:”
  • “Robert is a mistake I rubbed my own nose in for over a year. The 2013 Draft was a flurry of activity for us—a handful of trades and selections in both the first and second rounds. We had more action following the draft as we tried to finalize our summer league team and get the myriad trade calls set up with the NBA. I could see this coming a few days before and we informed the media that this kind of approach might lead to an unusually late start for the post-draft press conference. Several of you were still there late that night. At about 1:00 a.m. I went downstairs to address an equally exhausted media on deadline from their editors. When I returned upstairs, the undrafted Robert Covington was gone, having agreed to play for another club’s summer league team, eventually making their regular season roster. He torched the D-League that year, haunting me all the while. When he became available 17 months later, we pounced. But I shudder, even now, at that (nearly) missed opportunity.”
  • “This story underscores what our players, particularly our best players, are in greatest need of—time.”
  • “We need to identify high potential prospects and find ways to add them to our program. Then we need to work with them on their game in a targeted way to maximize their performance, their impact on the floor, and their value. One way is to draft them and put them on our 15-man roster. We do that. Another is to draft them and hold their exclusive NBA rights while they play professionally in a league that doesn’t start with N and end with A. Now we do that. These players can develop under our guidance while not counting against our roster, giving us not just 15 opportunities at one time, but several more. When appropriate for our team—but subject to buyout clauses in their professional contracts abroad—we can sign them to our club as one of our 15. This can happen within a season, at season’s end, or whenever their contract is available for buyout. These sets of players are viable players for the Sixers and viable options to trade in the interim. The goal is simple—a larger quiver. This quiver will give us more options immediately and more options over time.”
  • “While the young players on our team and rights-held players internationally continue to show promise, our ability to add to that group by layering in additional high quality talent via the draft, free agency, and trade is at an all-time high. In the first 26 months on the job we added more than one draft pick (or pick swap) per month to our coffers. That’s more than 26 new picks or options to swap picks over and above the two per year the NBA allots each club. That’s not any official record, because no one keeps track of such records. But it is the most ever. And it’s not close. And we kick ourselves for not adding another handful.”
  • “If you were to estimate the value of those firsts and the ones to follow, from this point forward we have essentially two NBA teams’ worth of first round pick value plus the third most second round picks in the league.”
  • “Our salary cap position going forward is easily the NBA’s best. The most room, the most flexibility, providing the widest available set of options in free agency or trade of any club. This stockpile can be used all at once or strategically over the ensuing years to acquire players that fit your team, improve in your development program, and help you move up the standings. During this phase of acquiring players and picks to really invest in our future and climb higher than we have in over 30 years, we spent a bit over $135M on payroll across the three seasons, while the NBA median spend was over $200M. That won’t last, as over time a climb up the standings will see spend rise precipitously as well. 12 These advantages over our competitors are material, but well short of deterministic. From here a whole host of solid decisions are necessary to play our hand out of this stacked deck. “
  • “The NBA can be a league of desperation, those that are in it and those that can avoid it. So many find themselves caught in the zugzwang, the point in the game where all possible moves make you worse off. Your positioning is now the opposite of that.”
  • “It’s clear now that I won’t see the harvest of the seeds we planted. That’s OK. Life’s like that. Many of my NBA friends cautioned me against the kind of seed sowing that felt appropriate given the circumstances for exactly this reason. But this particular situation made it all the more necessary, though. Part of the reason to reject fear and plow on was exactly because fear had been the dominant motivator of the actions of too many for too long. I will be repotted professionally. That is often uncomfortable; most growth is. But it’s also often healthier over the longer sweep of history, too. “