Josh Harris finally hired the right man for the job.
Brett Brown now runs the Sixers.
Harris appointed Brown as interim general manager on Thursday, after Bryan Colangelo resigned in disgrace over a Twitter controversy involving him and his wife. What happened to Colangelo was unfortunate and unfair, but it might be for the best. A storm was brewing between Colangelo and Brown, and besides, Colangelo wasn't all that good at his job, anyway.
In the end, the team is in good hands for the first time since Harris bought the franchise in the summer of 2011. Brown will run the Sixers' draft in two weeks. He will court free agents come July 1. He deserves to. With no GM in place, Harris realized that. He didn't tap any of Colangelo's lieutenants. He tapped the best man in the organization.
"We need to have someone who ultimately spoke for the basketball organization," Harris said. "We felt that Brett was the right candidate for that, in terms of everything he's achieved."
Brown steered the franchise through three seasons of aimless losing, then pushed a 10-win team to 28 wins two seasons ago, and to 52 wins and a playoff-series win last season. He has the trust and the confidence of the entire locker room and of the city the way a father has the trust of his children. He has cultivated that confidence in his five long seasons by being constant and consistent and professional and strong. You cannot apply any of those terms to the last two general managers.
Sam Hinkie, the brilliant, young theorist, came aboard in 2012 and pushed the ship from shore with a vague course in mind, but in the right general direction. He placed the Sixers in a space-age practice facility, made gutsy. long-term draft-pick decisions, and hoarded picks and salary-cap space for the next stage.
Colangelo came along in 2016 and amplified those assets with a superb analytics staff, a cutting-edge sports science division, and the wisdom to cooperate with Brown as the coach developed raw players.
It's Brown's show now. Get used to it. Give him whatever title you like, but this is his franchise. He might have a "superior" one day — Harris said the Sixers will eventually hire a real GM — but Brown should report to one person and one person only: Harris. And when Brown tells Harris what he wants, Harris' response should be a nod of the head and a shake of the hand.
Brown protested Thursday: "I have no desire to get involved with the day-to-day stuff that a normal general manager needs to go through."
Nor should he. That's why the Sixers have Marc Eversley, the player personnel director; and Ned Cohen, the chief of staff — the rest of the splendid front-office "firepower," to use Brown's term, that Colangelo assembled. But Brown should have final say in everything.
It has been quite a rise for a man who had never been an NBA head coach. Hinkie hired Brown, then an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs, to shepherd "The Process" of construction by demolition. As Hinkie's draft picks foundered, it became clear that Brown was Hinkie's best acquisition. Brown might also be the best decision that Bryan and his father, Jerry Colangelo, made, too. As Hinkie's path to resignation began, Jerry Colangelo, who came aboard to save the franchise from Hinkie in 2015, gave Brown a contract extension. Last week, Bryan Colangelo — whom Jerry Colangelo hired to save from continued unemployment (Bryan had already lost two GM jobs) — extended Brown's contract again.
If he finishes that deal, Brown will have been the coach from 2013 to 2022. For a franchise criticized for a lack of continuity, that's a lot of continuity.
Brown has been brilliant. He created Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, and T.J. McConnell, polished Dario Saric into a jewel, and converted Ben Simmons from a power forward into a point guard as an NBA rookie. He implemented Ersan Ilyasova twice in the last two seasons and squeezed every ounce of worth from gunners JJ Redick and Marco Belinelli. Those three came to Philadelphia because of Brown, not Colangelo.
It's just as well it ended this way, and ended quickly, because there was a struggle for power as the Sixers take their final steps toward title contention. Brown publicly stated that he wants to add a superstar immediately. Colangelo was content to wait a year or so. That was a recipe for strife.
Ever since he was hired, Brown has served as the face of the franchise, while Hinkie and Colangelo hid in their offices. Brown addressed every crisis, updated every injury, and dealt with every off-the-court issue, from Embiid's dancing at a Meek Mill concert to Markelle Fultz's mysterious injury and damaged psyche.
From the moves that landed Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams, to the first playoff-series win since 2011, The Process has always been about Brett Brown more than any other person. It will be more and more about him as the future rushes toward us. It's irrelevant who the next general manager will be, because the team belongs to Brown, as surely as the Spurs belong to head coach Gregg Popovich.
Brown might soon have a general manager, but he will not have a boss. That's the best thing Sixers fans could hope for.