What will Elton Brand’s front-office legacy be with the 76ers?
Will people remember him for being the general manager when ‘The Process’ failed to live up to its grand expectations? Will people instead say he never really got an opportunity to put his imprint on the franchise due to ownership’s heavy involvement? Or will the Sixers enable him to be remembered for actually making decisions?
Brand has been given credit publicly for most of the Sixers' key decisions since he was named GM two years ago. But the owners and other front-office people have been more deeply involved than the team has admitted.
Still, he met with the team’s ownership on Monday to discuss a new contract, according to multiple sources. Sources added Brand was expecting to get a three- or four-year deal.
The 41-year-old did not respond to The Inquirer’s multiple inquiries about the meeting. But several sources believes he’s in line to get a contract due to being on the front line taking the hits for the organization. Something also happened after Monday’s meeting that would lead you to believe that Brand will remain in place. Word leaked that the Sixers were intent on adding front-office talent under him. That came after multiple league sources had said the team was inquiring about the possibility of hiring a president of basketball operations.
Looking for someone to add below Brand isn’t surprising to league sources, who always questioned ownership’s seriousness in regard to giving up its control to a team president. However, it will be interesting to see if the Sixers make a run at Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey for that job. League sources think he could soon be in the market for another job, even though Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said Morey’s job is safe following the team’s second-round playoff elimination.
Brand is heading up the Sixers' head-coaching search that is down to two candidates in former Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni and Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Ty Lue. Billy Donovan was another top candidate before withdrawing from consideration on Tuesday to accept the Chicago Bulls' job.
This coaching search has been eye-opening for several league sources.
They’ve said it’s hard to tell who’s in charge due to ownership’s earlier-than-expected involvement. Sources have been saying since last week that the job is D’Antoni’s to turn down. They say he’s the guy the ownership group wants. One source even said the 69-year-old would have to bomb his interview with the Sixers owners not to be offered the job.
The problem is that Brand is supposed to have a huge input on the hire. The ownership is only supposed to approve or deny Brand’s suggestion. Now, word is leaking out that Brand is pushing hard for the Sixers to hire D’Antoni and that Joel Embiid gave his blessing. In addition, there are reports that the Sixers will make trades if D’Antoni is hired. The expectation is that he’ll have a say in picking players for his freewheeling style of play.
The Sixers organization prides itself on diversity hires and donating millions to social justice causes. However, it might receive some criticism if it hires D’Antoni, a white male, over Lue, 43, a Black male during a time when the NBA is promoting Black Lives Matter. Lue has an NBA title pedigree, winning two championships as a player with the Los Angeles Lakers and another coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But it’s hard to criticize the Sixers for not hiring a qualified Black coach when in fact the person publicly in charge of leading the decision is another Black male.
Time will tell what happens with the coaching job left vacant when Brett Brown was fired on Aug. 24. However, league sources said questions about the Sixers' front-office structure have concerned some qualified would-be candidates.
They were also concerned that Embiid’s close relationship with ownership would have an impact on a coach’s authority. Another concern was Embiid and Ben Simmons being empowered to think they have a hand in the coaching hire. The sources also wonder who’s actually in charge, even though the Sixers keep saying it’s Brand.
No one should be surprised that he wasn’t the final decision-maker during his first two years as GM. They picked Brand partly because he was agreeable to collaborative decision-making.
But he acknowledged the “collaboration days didn’t work too well” on Aug. 25, two days after the Sixers were swept in the first round of the NBA playoffs by the Boston Celtics. He also noted that the team was evaluating its front-office structure and personnel.
Brand has been criticized for the questionable draft picks, trades, and free-agent signees that have set the franchise back. But he’s still deemed to be in charge of the coaching search.
That in itself can be used as an indicator of how much of a voice he had. Sources have said executive vice president of basketball operations Alex Rucker has been heavily involved behind the scenes.
But now even more than ever, the Sixers are touting Brand as the guy with the keys.
Is that a sign that they’ll finally allow him to show what he can do? Or will owners continue to stay heavily involved and financially reward him for taking the heat for their decisions?