It took longer than anyone expected, but the Sixers did the right thing on Thursday when they parted ways with Bryan Colangelo, their embattled president of basketball operations.
The Sixers went above and beyond in both releasing the findings of the law firm they had employed to investigate Colangelo and hosting a news conference, complete with coach Brett Brown and managing partner Josh Harris, about his departure. At the conference, the pair spoke to the media with as much candor as could be expected — though whether everything they had to say is to be believed is another question.
As I wrote a week ago when The Ringer story about five Twitter accounts linked to Colangelo first broke, in the NBA — as in all professional sports — perception is reality. The perception around the Sixers now is that they’ve gotten to the bottom of this drama and have made the correct first move.
However, it’s critical to figure out how best to move forward. And fast.
The first place to start is with Jerry Colangelo, Bryan’s father who was brought on originally as chairman of basketball operations in 2015, before Bryan was hired.
It’s a little messy, but fans often suggest the NBA “forced” the senior Colangelo on the team after league leadership became fed up with then-general manager Sam Hinkie and his fail-for-draft-picks plan that’s now known as The Process. Whether or not there’s any truth to that assertion, four months after Jerry Colangelo was hired, Hinkie resigned and Bryan Colangelo was hired to replace him.
Jerry Colangelo — even today — remains with the team as a special advisor to its leadership. That’s a problem. It was a problem even before a Philly Voice report suggested part of the delay in arriving at Thursday’s decision was because Jerry threatened to “interfere with club relationships around the league” if Bryan were to be relieved of his duties.
If true (and Harris claimed during Thursday’s news conference that it’s not), this is a particularly bad look. But Jerry Colangelo’s remaining with the team would be a bad look regardless; his name and his family are tainted now. Harris basically said Jerry Colangelo’s fate wasn’t “today’s issue.” It sounds like he could remain in an advisory role with the team until his contract expires at the end of the year.
Now, there’s some ambiguity about what “the end of the year” actually means (NBA year or calendar year?) but regardless, with free agency just weeks away, the Sixers would be best served by cutting ties with all Colangelos on their payroll ASAP. Remember that whole thing about perception? Yeah.
Step two is to address the other glaring front-office issue: the next GM.
In the Sixers’ official statement, which was released ahead of the news conference, the team announced Brown would take over basketball operations on an interim basis.
That’s a good start, as it’s widely known that Brown is popular with his players and around the league. But it’s just that: a start.
At this point, the Sixers need a general manager who will finally create a sense of continuity. The team has struggled to instill a basketball operations hierarchy that hangs around more than a few years. While Brown has been around since 2013, he’s the lone standout.
And in the current version of the NBA, it’s unrealistic to expect anyone could find success as both coach and GM. Stan Van Gundy had that power in Detroit – and no one wants the Sixers to turn into the Pistons. Thankfully, Brown said Thursday he doesn’t plan to become the team’s GM for the long haul, only until they find the right replacement.
So while Harris is right in suggesting that finding the team’s next basketball operations leader is “not about making the choice quickly, it’s about making the right choice,” it must be said that some degree of speed here is important. Why? Because free agency and the draft are just weeks away, and the team has both draft capital and money to spend on free agents.
Simply put, the Sixers are in a position to reshape their roster this summer, but any of the top GM candidates will want a say in the direction they take.
Whether the Sixers reach out to the two most tantalizing names out there, ex-Cavaliers GM David Griffin (and his obvious ties to LeBron James) or current Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren, one thing is certain: Fans deserve someone who will get them excited — and who will embrace and can reshape the next phase of The Process.