Happy Colangelosversary, everyone!
As you well know, on this very day, Dec. 7th, 2015, now seven years ago, the Sixers organization caved to immense pressure from the league front office, an ambitious key voice on the business side from within, and (always a cardinal sin in any competitive endeavor) acquiesced to demands from their bitter rivals around the league, to stop the shameless tanking, and at least begin turning things around by on-boarding Jerry Colangelo as as adviser. And oh, what a fateful decision that was....
Joshua Harris: "This is not a deviation from our plan... we believe we are entering the next phase of our process."— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) December 7, 2015
As John Gozalez, then writing for NBCSP said, that was the moment “when [Josh Harris] effectively hit the eject button on The Process....”
Sam Hinkie continued working, but he was no longer in control. That’s perhaps why in his exit letter, Hinkie noted how productive the team was in his first 26 months on the job. Notice he left out the final eight months of his tenure in that tally of historic draft accumulation:
“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.”
It’s odd isn’t it? Hinkie was basically running the Sixers for well under three seasons, about the same amount of time Morey has run the Sixers now, or Leon Rose has run the New York Knicks. And yet, the Process is sometimes referred to as this near decade-long slog? In fact, the post-Process, Colangelos-Collaborative ordeal lasted nearly five years; more than twice the duration of Hinkie’s true reign.
Pundits often ask “if The Process worked,” when it might be more apt to ask “what might have become of The Process if the team didn’t hit eject and pivot to the Colangelo- Collaborative Wrecking Ball Committee instead.”
Indeed, collaboration became the Sixers’ buzz word at the time. We’d learn things would become more like an investment committee, building towards consensus.
More from Gonzalez:
“When Jerry Colangelo was hired, [Josh] Harris used the word “collaboration” a lot. Almost everyone with the Sixers did for the last few months. It sounded fine in that clean, corporate way, but functionally the word meant something else. It meant a dramatic shift away from [Sam] Hinkie and his approach — and toward the Colangelos and their relationships around the league.”
Ahhh! Gonzalez and others at the time reported on an ownership and business-side of the team who felt out of the loop, experiencing a lack of collaboration from Hinkie. It makes sense, then why they went so far the other way, finally getting the chance to run things more themselves.
But the cascade of folly was well underway.
Colangelo’s presence would abruptly halt the frenetic asset accumulation. Following the trail of breadcrumbs makes it sound as if Colangelo even blocked a Jahlil Okafor blockbuster, making that one of the Process Era’s biggest what ifs, we rarely dwell on.
While it’s tempting and fair to simply call big Jah a bust, the mere fact that former Celtics Czar Danny Ainge sounds like he really wanted to trade precious Brooklyn picks (you know, the type that led to players like Jaylen Brown) for him muddies the narrative. Yes, he was a bust, but reports were that Hinkie was shopping Okafor, Ainge had a deal lined up he liked, and some mystery person in Philly, squashed the deal, right around the time we learned Jerry was really the one in charge. Oh the agony.
But things got even worse, somehow. Jerry would convince the Sixers to hire his son, Bryan, Bryan would oversee the devastating 2017 draft and more. Perhaps, if the team felt they had to move on from Hinkie, they could at least have just hired a solid run-of-the-mill GM to put the massive asset haul to work?
Even after Bryan Colangelo left in the Burnergate scandal, Kyle Neubeck of the PhillyVoice described the sometimes confusing power structure that followed his reign:
“This has been one of the major struggles of untangling Philadelphia’s moves since Bryan Colangelo parted ways with the team last June. Nearly all of his front office lieutenants have remained in place, which makes it hard to dole out credit (or blame) for involvement in the team’s decision-making process, even (and perhaps especially) reaching as high as Brand.”
The “C-word” really resurfaced with a vengeance following the Burnergate report, didn’t it?
Collaborate. Relationships. The Sixers’ fans endured about five years worth of organizational, quite voluntary, almost defiant dysfunction, before they mercifully hired Daryl Morey.
But Morey inherited a difficult challenge. With massive contracts being dolled out to to folks like Ben Simmons, Al Horford, Tobias Harris and Doc Rivers all before he began, it hasn’t exactly been an easy gig. The most cynical folks occasionally wonder out loud if Morey is merely part of that collaborative these days.
And here we are. Hopefully the Sixers can turn things around. But it’s always important to reflect on history to avoid making the same mistakes again or something. Your guys are off until Friday when they face the Lakers.