WHAT'S THE connection between Bernie Sanders coming to town last week and Sam Hinkie leaving town last week? Socialism!

Sanders, at an organized labor convention and Temple University, was here to preach his gospel of free stuff and Utopia. Hinkie quit, apparently after his vision of perpetual, intentional losing to prosper in the socialist system of the NBA was rejected by the 76ers.

Sanders is an avowed socialist. Apparently, his supporters acknowledge that, but seem to think he is the good kind. The NBA doesn't acknowledge that it is a socialist outfit, but people like Nate Silver, ESPN analyst and famed election-model innovator, recently said "It's kind of ironic, but American sports are socialist." He cited, as I would, things such as the pro drafts, preferential draft positions for the worst teams, revenue sharing and salary caps as evidence of socialism.

So, in the socialist world of the NBA, Hinkie was allowed to "tank" to follow what he called "The Process." The sickening thing to me was that significant numbers of sports fans were tickled by this Utopian dream and followed the 76ers in a perverse fascination with some distant future.

To me, sports are about competition, about trying to win, about dealing with winning and losing. What Hinkie exposed is what the NBA has become. His extremism carried to a logical conclusion the socialistic principles of the league. Sanders and the response he gets expose the socialistic infrastructure of the Democratic Party.

The NBA didn't like Hinkie because of how blatant he was in intentionally losing. Sanders' avowed socialism and the fervent response he is getting make it hard for Hillary Clinton and other Democrats to cover up how far their party has turned left.

This structure has changed sports away from fixation on winning and losing and the purity and beauty of it. Now, talk about pro sports centers on cap hits, draft positions and contracts of athletes. Aren't sports supposed to be all the things we celebrated with Villanova's great NCAA Tournament win? Didn't we not only admire the form of a great shooter such as Kris Jenkins, who hit the winning shot, but also the presence of mind of Ryan Arcidiacono to set him up for the final shot? Didn't we see that Villanova didn't get top draft picks to contend with mighty North Carolina? We saw a very together team developed by Jay Wright, and we clearly saw Wright outcoach Roy Williams in the final game.

I know that it can be argued that Hinkie is a symptom of the socialist model of the NBA. I'm more amazed by how many people not only endorsed but were thrilled by his grand plan of losing as much as possible for three years. Imagine an NBA in which true market forces drove everything. Players could play with whatever team that wanted them and that they chose. Owners would be encouraged to pour all possible resources into getting great players and coaching and winning. There would a lot less talk about losing on purpose, player salaries, and things that distract from the joys of the game. This vision means there would be no attempts at artificial parity.

If Sanders doesn't become president, he would be right at home as an NBA czar. He preaches more government intervention, more regulations, more taxations and free stuff are necessary to have a functioning society. He reminded me a lot of Hinkie in his recent interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News. The interview made a lot of news because Sanders was unable to answer cogently how he would implement his Utopian vision.

When Sanders spoke at Temple's Liacouras Center last week, he could have been channeling Hinkie when he said, "What this campaign is about is asking the American people to think outside of the box, to think outside of the status quo, to understand that the status quo we have year after year can, in fact, change."

Hinkie, in his epic 13-page manifesto written upon his resignation, talked the same way about his visionary powers.

Hinkie robbed area basketball fans of three years of competitive basketball. If elected, Sanders would rob us of a lot more.

Teacher-turned-talk show host Dom Giordano is heard 9 a.m. to noon weekdays on WPHT (1210-AM). Contact him at www.domgiordano.com