Pat Williams doesn't profess much knowledge about the new potential ownership group for the 76ers. But the Orlando Magic senior vice president sure knows a lot about the subject of ownership changes.
While he was the Sixers general manager from 1974-86, Williams worked for three different owners - Irv Kosloff, Fitz Dixon, and Harold Katz.
Twenty-five years later, a group led by New York billionaire Joshua Harris is negotiating to buy the 76ers, and Williams said it will be important for the current team management to quickly get on the same page with the new owner. Even if the new owner does not have much - or any - experience in running a franchise, it's vital for management and the coaching staff to have a strong rapport with the new boss.
"New ownership comes in and wants to make a difference. . . . They want to put their stamp on it," Williams said in a phone interview. "The worry [for management] is that new owners with no background in basketball will become 'experts' in two weeks. If you can get through that, and they begin to understand that this isn't an exact science and doesn't relate fully to how they made their money, and it's a whole industry fully unto itself."
Williams said he advises the holdovers to include the new owners in their process of making basketball-related decisions.
"I would counsel any new coaches and full-time employees to seek out the owner and keep him in the loop," Williams said. "Owners don't like surprises. . . . Don't let him get secondhand information."
Williams said he used to make a list of 10 or 12 items to discuss with the Sixers owners periodically.
Besides working for three owners in Philadelphia, Williams also worked with two ownership groups when he was general manager of the Chicago Bulls, and two other groups during his 22 seasons with the Magic.
Sometimes, Williams said, new owners make old employees nervous.
"You know how to relate to your current owner and how to work with him," Williams said. "Now you wonder if you can make the adjustment to a new personality. You wonder if he is going to let me operate and trust my judgment. And will he let me keep my people that I am comfortable with."
Williams said one reason he was able to work so well with new owners during his time with the Sixers was that there was little shake-up when the new ownership took over.
"We kept the coaches, by and large, kept the scouts, and didn't have major upheavals, and the common thread was that all of the owners with the Sixers wanted to win, and they provided the resources we needed."
Williams said he never forgot the advice of the late Dick Vertlieb, a former NBA general manager for Seattle, Indiana, and Golden State.
"He told me, 'The key to surviving as a GM or a front-office guy is to get to know the mind of the owner and his goals and help him get there,' " Williams said. "If you can do that, you can be successful."