While the 76ers were putting candidates for general manager through the sometimes-artificial interview process, Tony DiLeo, a stalwart in the organization for more than two decades, was working alongside team president Rod Thorn to construct a squad that has raised hopes higher than they have been in years.
On Friday, the Sixers rewarded the 22-year team loyalist, who has held multiple positions with the Sixers, promoting DiLeo from senior vice president of basketball operations to general manager.
"We have promoted Tony DiLeo to the role of 76ers general manager, and at this time he will work alongside Rod Thorn, who continues his duties as president of basketball operations," Sixers owner Joshua Harris said in a statement. "We are very confident that Tony has the experience and knowledge to flourish in his new role, and we will continue to provide him with the necessary tools and resources - including enhancing our capabilities in analytics - to strengthen our basketball operations department."
Thorn will stay on as president until the end of the 2012-13 season and then will move into a consultant position with the team.
Said DiLeo: "I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure we put [together] a team that our fans will be proud to support, both this season and in the future."
The terms of DiLeo's deal were not available.
DiLeo, who lives in Cinnaminson, has been instrumental in scouting talent, both in the United States and overseas. He played a role in the team's drafting players such as Allen Iverson and Andre Iguodala. He also played a role in the drafting of current players Thaddeus Young, Jrue Holiday, and Evan Turner.
Before deciding on DiLeo, the Sixers interviewed many candidates, all from outside the organization. Danny Ferry, the onetime general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers, spurned the Sixers for Atlanta. They also interviewed Boston's assistant GM, Mike Zarren, who withdrew his candidacy, and ESPN analyst and ex-Portland Trail Blazers assistant GM Tom Penn. Former New Orleans GM Jeff Bower also interviewed.
Ferry was the primary target. The Sixers, who were said to be looking for a GM with more of an "analytical approach," never really warmed to Zarren, Penn, or Bower.
DiLeo replaced Maurice Cheeks as Sixers coach during the 2008-09 season after the team started 9-14 and guided them to a 32-27 finish the rest of the way. This offseason, he played a major role in the team's reconstruction after the Sixers were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by Boston.
The Sixers opted against re-signing last season's leading scorer, Lou Williams, and they bought out the final year of Elton Brand's contract at more than $18 million. They shrewdly re-signed Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes to two-year deals. With the stated goal in the offseason being transforming the Sixers into a bigger, more athletic team with more offensive capability, they added Nick Young, Dorell Wright, and Kwame Brown.
Those were solid moves, but the Sixers dramatically altered their roster later in August when, as part of the four-team, 12-player Dwight Howard deal, they acquired center Andrew Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers and veteran shooting guard Jason Richardson from Orlando. They also moved Iguodala, who had two years and more than $30 million in salary due to him, and their first-round picks from the last two drafts (Maurice Harkless and 2011 first-rounder Nik Vucevic).
The acquisitions of Bynum, an all-star who last season averaged 18.4 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks, and Richardson, a veteran shooter, have dramatically heightened expectations for the Sixers.
According to an Eastern Conference general manager, DiLeo "played a huge role" in the Sixers' offseason moves.
Michael Curry, the Sixers' associate head coach, made his NBA debut as a player for the Sixers during the 1993-94 season. DiLeo was an assistant coach on that team. Curry believes the Sixers made the right decision in promoting DiLeo.
"Tony has always had a calm and cool demeanor and has always been very thorough in everything that he did," Curry said. "He has a very good basketball mind. The fact that he is very thorough in his decision making makes him a great person for the position."
Formerly: Senior vice president and assistant general manager of the 76ers.
DiLeo joined the Sixers staff for the 1990-91 season. He served as interim coach in 2008-09, finishing with a 32-27 record.
International background: A La Salle graduate, DiLeo played and coached in West Germany for 10 seasons. He coached the West German men's and women's teams from 1979 to 1990, winning nine national titles in the country's top division.
Author: DiLeo wrote and published The European Basketball Handbook, a guide for American players overseas.
His sons: T.J. DiLeo is a senior guard at Temple. Max DiLeo is a sophomore guard at Monmouth.