Bryan Colangelo’s downfall is stunning, but the Sixers did the right thing | David Murphy
Bryan Colangelo's tenure with the Sixers had reached a point where his departure was the only conceivable ending.
What is there to say?
It's a remarkable question, given the absurdity of the situation. But when the Sixers parted ways with their president and general manager Thursday afternoon, it was one of those rare bombshells that left little to debate.
He had to go, and you have to think that even he knew it, and on a human level, it's impossible not to grimace at what these last 72 hours must have been like for Bryan Colangelo and his inner circle.
When he arrived in Los Angeles for pre-draft workouts earlier this week, he was a man with a job that most would have considered one of the most enviable in the NBA, fresh off a season that signaled his team's imminent arrival into the realm of the league's elite. That he'd lucked into the role — and into the assemblage of talent at the foundation of the Sixers' 52-win season — should have mattered little. It was his roster now, and it was his future to chart, and it was he who was about to find himself standing at the center of the NBA's summer.
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And then, with the click of a button on some content management system, all of it was gone. Not immediately, not officially, but when The Ringer went live with its story about the five anonymous Twitter accounts with near-indisputable links to his name, Colangelo had to know that the end had arrived. Shortly after the expose broke on the evening of May 29, he was spotted in L.A. by an Inquirer source looking visibly shaken, a king alone in his gift-wrapped castle, just him and the knowledge that it would soon fall down.
Granted, the human side isn't the most convenient thing to consider after the laughs we all enjoyed from the story of his undoing. It'd be a lot tidier if the reality of the situation matched what a lot of us wanted it to be: an illegitimate ruler, installed by force, toppled by his own insecure hubris, and an inability to let the cries of his detractors go. It would have been something, a man in his position concocting a series of anonymous Twitter accounts through which he could vent his considerable frustrations. The whole thing would have fit the prevailing narrative so completely that we desperately wanted it to be as black-and-white as it seemed. Here was a petty, meritless, underhanded politician undone by a petty, thoughtless, underhanded thing.
Except, it's never that simple, is it? We can pretend that it is, and twist the outcome in a way in which his downfall remains his own worthy undoing. But the reality of the situation seems a lot more complex.
All along, the smoking gun was the disappearance of three of the accounts after a reporter alerted Colangelo to his knowledge of the existence of the other two. There were only two conceivable scenarios: either Colangelo himself was responsible for their disappearance, or he'd alerted the person who was. After an internal investigation that lasted far longer than anybody expected, the Sixers concluded that the second scenario occurred, although the statement they released did not rule out the possibility that he had done so wittingly after a reporter from The Ringer contacted him two weeks ago.
"We cannot conclude that Mr. Colangelo was aware of the Twitter accounts prior to the May 22 press inquiry," said the statement released by the law firm with which the Sixers contracted to conduct the investigation.
In the end, the Sixers decided that it did not really matter. And they were correct. It didn't. Even if Colangelo's reaction to The Ringer's story was the same as all of ours — Are you Fultzing kidding me? — the implications of his wife's tweets were too obvious to ignore. Even if the criticisms of Joel Embiid and Brett Brown and executives across the NBA reflected her own thoughts and not those of her husband, that's not the conclusion that is human nature to draw.
That's important, because in less than a month, the Sixers will begin attempting to persuade one or more high-profile humans to join them in their quest for a championship. And while players tend to ignore much of what does not directly impact their financial well being or their competitiveness on the court, there was little reason to risk it playing even a small factor.
The reality is that Colangelo, like many of us, is eminently replaceable. He had won just four playoff series in 17 seasons as a general manager before arriving in Philadelphia. His draft history is littered with some epic swings-and-misses, the biggest of which could end up being last year's trade up to No. 1 to select a player who lost his shot and appeared in just 14 games.
There is lots more to dissect. The Sixers have a lot of work to do and not a lot of time to do it. For now, the bottom line is that they made the right decision. And that's all there is to say.