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Sixers new GM Hinkie brings analytical approach to table

Owner Josh Harris, new general manager Sam Hinkie seem to be on the same page about how to fix the Sixers.

Sam Hinkie brings an impressive background in analytics, utilizing data to improve decision-making, and Josh Harris is a big fan. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Sam Hinkie brings an impressive background in analytics, utilizing data to improve decision-making, and Josh Harris is a big fan. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

ON SATURDAY morning, Sam Hinkie told his two young children that they would be moving to Philadelphia, where he would be the president of basketball operations and general manager of the 76ers. His young son asked to look at the Sixers' roster and thought it was cool that the team had a set of brothers in Jrue and Justin Holiday.

"He was impressed with that," Hinkie said.

For the sake of Sixers fans, here's hoping his father was far less impressed with the roster.

Hinkie was introduced by managing owner Josh Harris yesterday afternoon at the team's practice facility at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. If there was any doubt about Harris getting his guy, just take a look at the two.

(Cue the theme song from "The Patty Duke Show'' - "They laugh alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike . . . ")

Hinkie brings an impressive background in analytics, utilizing data to improve decision-making, and Harris is a big fan. In fact, Harris had talked with Hinkie about the GM job last season, but decided not to make a change after the team advanced to the second round of the playoffs, a win away from the conference finals.

Hinkie, an Oklahoma and Stanford (MBA) graduate, made a name for himself in the league while working for the Houston Rockets the past eight seasons, most recently as the executive vice president of basketball operations.

The obvious first topic was that of the head-coaching vacancy. Hinkie said there was no time frame and ideally he would have liked to have the coach on the dais next to him. But since that wasn't the case, he touched on what he is looking for in a head man.

"I like working with people who are hard-working and diligent and want to get better at their craft every day," Hinkie said. "That would be important. I think player development would be important to me. I think it's critical in today's NBA that coaches would be willing to invest in that and understand just how critical it could be.

"There would have to be a real shared philosophy about X's-and-O's, and we would have to talk about that a lot. I think it's all too often overstated about how analytically minded a head coach has to be. I think every head coach in the NBA is analytically minded, I think they all want to win. I have a list of guys who I think are interesting and I'd like it to grow and solicit the input of others. I don't believe all the ideas come from one person. I believe in the opposite.

"I'm pretty open [to coaching styles]. I like things that have won in the past. I like defense, I like balance, I don't like being too tipped into one direction. The history is pretty clear that balance, at least at the highest level, wins. The big, big thing that I would want is a coach that you could believe had a reasonable chance, very similar to a player, a reasonable chance to be your championship-caliber coach. Everything is about getting the right coach."

Players go a long way toward getting a coach to that status and Hinkie said there were some things that he likes about the roster, mentioning young players Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young, but that improving it is a top priority. While he and Harris both mentioned having salary-cap space, that won't really come into play for a year because the Sixers only will be about $12 million under for next season. But that is an area in which Hinkie is supposedly a master and a key reason he was brought here.

"In order to achieve long-term success, there are no shortcuts," Harris said. "We will continually evaluate every aspect of this organization. We're always going to move with a sense of urgency to make the decisions necessary to put the Sixers in a position to excel. There were a number of factors that led to this decision. I feel as the managing owner that this is the most important hire we have made since taking over the team.

"Sam is a proven innovator. He built the Rockets analytical efforts, which enhanced their decision-making in draft, free agency, trades and game strategy. He also maintains a strong commitment to traditional approaches. When we talk about analytics, we're not talking about going into a back room with a bunch of computers. We're talking about adding to a very strong player department and more traditional front office."

But much will revolve around the concept of advanced analytics, working the salary cap to find affordable free agents and drafting players who will become viable contributors. Those are all things that Harris and others around the league say is Hinkie's forte.

As for the Andrew Bynum saga, Hinkie admitted that when he was with the Rockets last year, they were interested in landing the 7-footer. There was a nervous laugh when asked if he's still interested in Bynum, then Hinkie said: "I suspect this makes me boring, but I think of Andrew like the thousands of other young men walking around the world that are unrestricted free agents that would have potential to play NBA basketball. He is one of those and I'm duty-bound to consider them, to look at them. All of them.

"Andrew has only two differences in my mind. One, there is this period because he is here and under contract here [until July 1] where there is an exclusive negotiating period, that's different from everyone else in the world, whether they're wonderful players or can't play at all. Two, I think the Sixers should have an enormous information advantage."

Hinkie's first order of business will be to scout possible draft picks in Chicago the next couple of days.

There's going to be a lot to deal with in a short period of time.

"I think the first 100 days here will be a whirlwind," Hinkie said. "I welcome that."

Oh, the whirlwind probably will be a lot longer than that. Passionate Sixers fans will make sure of that, especially if the move forward isn't fast and successful.

"Now you really have to look at yourself in the mirror every day and look at reality and what's here and the reality of what can be," Hinkie said. "This is a hard league. Everyone is trying to get the same thing. There are no silver bullets that you do one thing and it makes it really, really easy overnight."

Aron update

There was word circulating yesterday that CEO Adam Aron's role with the organization had been scaled back a bit.

"Not true, nothing has changed," Aron said.

Today on Sam Donnellon writes about the new risk management firm of Harris & Hinkie.