The ghost of Sam Hinkie's tenure as general manager with the 76ers briefly rose from Philadelphia's basketball graveyard Monday night. Reports claimed that Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive had approached Hinkie to join the Kings' front office, currently led by general manager Vlade Divac:
The idea was fun while it lasted. Yet even though the story was mostly over in about two hours, the embers from the latest round of earth-scorching in Philadelphia are still smoldering.
The best examples of all came from WIP's Howard Eskin and the station's program director — who as you may know is also his son, Spike. The former hates Hinkie with the fire of a thousand flames. The latter is an avowed fan (and host of a well-known podcast on the subject):
So here's the question, as bluntly as I can put it:
Why can't Philadelphia get over Sam Hinkie?
It obviously doesn't help that the Kings were the team in play Monday night. For one thing, they're absurdly bad, even worse than the 76ers were before Hinkie's arrival.
More importantly, Sacramento let Hinkie fleece them in one of his signature trades here. Which means it would be something particular if that's where Hinkie gets his next NBA job.
But I'm willing to bet it's deeper than that. As proof, I give you the many conversations about Hinkie on Not Another Philly Sports Talk Show since the podcast launched at the start of what turned out to be Hinkie's last season in town.
Hinkie offended something really deep in Philadelphia sports fandom: the degree to which teams throwing the kitchen sink at "competing" justifies people's existences.
I put "competing" in quotes, because it's more of a perception than a reality. If you're spending lots of money on free agents and doing lots of trades and making the playoffs on a regular basis, you're "competing."
But you aren't necessarily winning. Indeed, you may not be coming any closer to a championship than you ever were. That's especially true in the NBA. If a team doesn't have the talent to win a championship, the primary goal is to reduce the randomness you face in a lottery to acquire that talent.
Which means that yes, you have to lose in order to win. And you have to lose a lot.
Mike Sielski has been hammering this point for a long time now, as you all know, and he's done it better than just about anyone. Let's go back to February of 2015, when he wrote these words that are still true:
As we all know well, Bryan Colangelo came along after a while, and soothed lots of people's egos by talking about how things were going to be different. With an emphasis on "talking," because Sam Hinkie's lack of talking was something else that the old-school fans in town blasted him over.
(This is among the many reasons why FakeWIPCaller is one of the best Twitter follows in Philly sports. The satire is fantastic.)
How good has Colangelo been at talking? So good that it might just have blown the 76ers' ability to trade Jahlil Okafor. Here's Mike from this February on Okafor — two years and three days after the above column, to be precise:
I've got one more of Sielski's columns from this year, for good measure. It hammers the point home, too:
It wasn't just Hinkie's philosophy, it was the brazen way he executed it. It almost felt to some fans/media/etc. like he was insulting their manhood (and I use that word intentionally), even though all sorts of logic showed Hinkie was doing a better job of building a winning team than Colangelo ever has in his career.
(Is that blunt enough?)
Those of you who've listened to the podcast since its early days know that Sielski, David Murphy, and I are on the same side of the Hinkie-Colangelo-tanking-spending-reality-perception debate. We still are, even though I'm not in the producer's chair anymore.
And I get — as indeed, many of Hinkie's defenders do — that there are are a lot of people on the other side, no matter how many words we fire off trying to convince them to change their minds.
So here's a peace offering. I'll gladly admit that Hinkie took a logical plan to an illogical extreme, if you admit that for as much as you hated the tanking, you knew deep down that it might actually succeed.
Because then we can agree that what annoys us all together is that we'll never truly know how the story would have ended.