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Sixers' Hinkie badly needs Colangelo's help

IT'S THEIR first step toward sanity. No more will other teams look toward Philadelphia's front office and snigger. No more will coach Brett Brown be forced to say, "This is bigger than me" after his only star is suspended for street fighting as his general manager hides just around the corner.

IT'S THEIR first step toward sanity.

No more will other teams look toward Philadelphia's front office and snigger.

No more will coach Brett Brown be forced to say, "This is bigger than me" after his only star is suspended for street fighting as his general manager hides just around the corner.

After watching GM Sam Hinkie mismanage a simple matter of discipline and public relations into a internationally embarrassing fiasco, Sixers owner Josh Harris on Monday demoted Hinkie, a new-school numbers whiz with little regard for the league's peerage.

Harris hired Jerry Colangelo, old-school talent scout and gilded NBA nobility.

It will read "Chairman of Basketball Operations" outside of Colangelo's door.

Underneath, it should read:

Sam Hinkie's Daddy.

This is like hiring Bill Cosby to write Chris Rock's material.

"I think I can offer a lot of mentoring to Sam," said Colangelo, 76.

Any mentoring would help. Hinkie, 38, has had none so far.

"I'll take all the advice he can give me," Hinkie said.

In that case, there will be some long talks ahead for these two. Don't expect analytic tags like "EPVs" and "PERs" to be mentioned much.

The topics will center on WINs, and how to build a team that gets them. Hinkie has a lot to learn.

In three years of unchecked power he dismantled a respectable core of players; stockpiled draft picks mainly, by absorbing millions of dollars of other teams' bad contracts; and acquired tantalizingly talented, brutally raw players.

Along the way Hinkie, in the footsteps of Joe Banner, offended the game's top power brokers with his brusque, bookish manner and compiled rosters that actually impeded the progress of the team's top players.

"There needs to be some support within the organization around the players," Colangelo said. "There seems to be a void of leadership, playerwise."

The void doesn't end in the locker room. Hinkie has been virtually invisible in times of reflection and crisis. Until now, Harris never seemed to mind.

After all, he lives in New York City, has his pet New Jersey Devils to run, oversees a giant hedge fund and is trying to run with the biggest of the big boys: He is pursuing Crystal Palace, a London soccer team that plays in the world's most significant association, the Premier League.

Why does Harris suddenly care that his NBA hobby has devolved into travesty? Because the travesty is making him look like an international idiot.

As the Sixers set another record for futility, they simultaneously botched the Okafor matter.

In the early hours of Nov. 26, Okafor, 19, was captured in a TMZ video brawling in a Boston street outside a nightclub. Hinkie did not address the matter. He also did not suspend Okafor.

Then, a second TMZ video released Dec. 2 showed Okafor in a separate fight that same night. This fight left one combatant face-down on the sidewalk, blood streaming from his left temple.

Hinkie still declined to suspend Okafor, at least until the team arrived at Madison Square Garden for that night's game against the Knicks, and then only after hours of outrage from the press and social media.

After the suspension was announced, Hinkie stood outside the Sixers' locker room and refused to address the situation. He instead made Brown answer questions about the discipline; about Okafor's character; about Okafor lying to the team.

Brown was furious. In fact, if Colangelo hadn't been hired, the Okafor incidents might have been the last straw for Brown.

A respected assistant coach of Gregg Popovich for a dozen years before landing in Philadelphia with Hinkie, Brown has been cast as a necessary victim of the most bizarre revitalization plan in NBA history. Brown endured that role with grace . . . until, in February, Hinkie stunned him by trading point guard Michael Carter-Williams, whom Brown had molded into the NBA Rookie of the Year the previous season.

Now, with Colangelo aboard, Brown sounds willing to stay the course.

"This is where I want to be," Brown said Monday.

Colangelo carries that much weight.

He earned his reputation in Phoenix, where he will continue to reside. He owned the Diamondbacks from their infancy and helped bring the Coyotes to town, but he is best known for being general manager of the Suns beginning in 1968 and, as GM or owner, seeing that club through drug scandals, tragedies and the employment of Sir Charles Barkley. He divested his sports holdings in 2004 but the next year took over USA Basketball, where he created a culture that tamed superdivas Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.

While Colangelo was carving a sports legacy from sandstone in the desert, Sam Hinkie was becoming his high school's valedictorian, graduating from Oklahoma, earning an MBA and latching on with the Rockets, first as an analytics expert, then an assistant GM.

The only number that really mattered: The Rockets were 1-6 in playoff series with Hinkie aboard.

The hallmarks of Hinkie's brief tenure with the Sixers: shrewd trades and a willingness to stockpile "assets," as he calls them, in the form of percolating players and future, protected picks. Hinkie's role in acquisitions largely will remain unchanged.

The problems with Hinkie's brief tenure: tone-deaf management of the team's image, as player-after-player missteps have gone without penalty; creation of a toxic, losing environment and putrid reputation; and his bizarre insistence that experience counts for nothing.

The club has not had a viable veteran presence for two seasons. It has never had an accomplished, veteran post player to help Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Okafor. It has never had a polished, veteran point guard; no one to guide Carter-Williams; no one to run the team in the final minutes of winnable games, the chief reason they are 1-21 this season.

Noel has regressed. Embiid is an unmanageable renegade. And they're the good news.

Okafor faces charges for speeding in November. He reportedly was involved in an altercation in October that ended with him looking down the barrel of a gun - also, after a night of partying.

And, finally, this very public, very dangerous night that might result in lawsuits and more criminal charges.

This is what comes from handing the keys to the club to a guy with a learner's permit.

Harris woke up Monday, saw the wreckage and, finally, gave the keys to someone who has been around the block.