Late Monday morning, the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Houston. The 2016 class of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame had just been introduced. The rest of the room had clustered around each of the inductees, Allen Iverson commanding the largest crowd around a table near the entrance, and Jerry Colangelo stood in the back, chatting with friends. It had been four months since he had joined the 76ers as their chairman of basketball operations.

So, Jerry, what are your impressions of Sam Hinkie now, compared to when you took the job?

"I'm not going to do that," Colangelo said, betraying nothing of the news that came down Wednesday night - that Hinkie had stepped down as the Sixers' general manager and president. Or, perhaps Colangelo was betraying everything.

"Look, he's a very bright guy," Colangelo said. "The analytics shouldn't be overplayed. It shouldn't be underplayed. It's really a great tool in my opinion. But there comes a time when you need to pull the trigger - pull the trigger in terms of using some of the assets to move forward. . . .

"My time with Sam has been productive. I've learned some things from him as to what makes him tick, and I think he's heard from me in my experiences, and I offer him other things to consider. It's only positive. It's never been a conflict."

Not for him, maybe. Not for an NBA lifer who was supposed to bring credibility and a quicker fix to a franchise apparently desperate to back out of its commitment to a young executive who dared to think differently from the rest of the league. But for Hinkie, there was nothing but conflict, nothing but a fundamental clash of values at the core of this new front-office structure that Josh Harris and the rest of the Sixers' ownership group had created. He had his way of doing things, and he would not compromise it. So in that sense, it shouldn't be a surprise that, according to ESPN, he sent a 13-page letter to the Sixers' owners explaining why he would sooner resign than settle for what he considered half-measures or a rash approach in constructing a championship-caliber team.

"There has been much criticism of our approach. There will be more," Hinkie wrote in the letter. "A competitive league like the NBA necessitates a zig while our competitors comfortably zag. . . . Given all the changes to our organization, I no longer have the confidence that I can make good decisions on behalf of investors in the Sixers."

Two months ago, in a quiet lounge in the Wells Fargo Center before a game, Hinkie made it clear that he understood just how tenuous his fate with the franchise was, how unwilling he was to concede to what he considered misguided ideas just to keep his job.

"I'm principled, and it's a really deep principle of mine that you be willing to speak truth in the face of dissension all the time," he said then. "You can anticipate I will continue to recommend what I think is best and be willing to defend why."

Hinkie made his mistakes, of course, and they were significant ones. He had few allies in the press because of his infamous reticence. It was a strategy designed to keep his thinking focused on the future and to maintain a poker face in front of competing executives, a strategy that might have played in a smaller, less-fevered sports market but that marked him as a disgraceful apostate among the go-along-to-get-along members of the media here. His failure to make a stronger public response to Jahlil Okafor's series of disturbing off-court incidents last fall - a street fight, an incident with a gun, a speeding ticket for driving 108 mph - was exceeded by his blindness to the benefits of having at least one respected veteran on the roster who might teach Okafor and his young teammates how to navigate life in the NBA.

Ultimately, though, his costliest error was trusting Harris and the other owners to honor their word that they would tolerate years of bad basketball for the hope of something marvelous later. They knew what they were getting when they hired Hinkie. From the start, he was open about his plan and his intentions, about his affinity for analytics and his belief that it would take time for the Sixers to become great, if they became great at all. And as awful as the Sixers' record has been since his arrival - 47-195, the worst in the league - Hinkie had positioned them to take a big step forward this offseason: Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, as many as four first-round picks, and oodles of salary-cap space. He may be walking away, but his bosses bailed on him first.

Now, here comes Jerry Colangelo, bringing in his son Bryan - former GM of the Toronto Raptors - to replace Hinkie, both of them perfectly positioned to take credit for a potential renaissance that someone else made possible.

"Losing breeds losing," Jerry Colangelo said Monday. "I mean, that's just the reality. When you're around a team that falls into that kind of funk, it's hard. The best thing is, get it over with. It's almost over. That's what I keep suggesting to Coach [Brett] Brown and Sam and everyone else. Let's finish this thing off. . . . Let's bury it and don't look back. Just look forward."

It was the only direction Hinkie ever looked, and the only thing finished is his time with a team that didn't have the stomach to stay his course. The Sixers pulled the trigger, all right, and in an ending everyone could see coming, the bullet ended up in Sam Hinkie's back.

msielski@phillynews.com

@MikeSielski