Think back to the summer of 2018 when the 76ers were looking for a president of basketball operations to succeed Bryan Colangelo, who had resigned in early June after a Twitter account scandal.
The Sixers handed Brett Brown the job on an interim basis while spending three months searching for their next general manager.
“I think it’s going to take a while to find the right person,” managing partner Josh Harris said in July at the NBA Summer League. “I hate to keep talking about it, but we really need to find the right person who can develop the special culture. It’s very consensus-oriented.”
The Sixers went after a number of accomplished, high-level executives around the NBA, knowing full well that the candidates would want the final say and not be part of a consensus-oriented front office. Yet, their list of targets included Daryl Morey, Bob Myers, Sam Presti, Dennis Lindsey, and David Griffin.
It all looked good on paper to go after those heavy hitters before eventually elevating Elton Brand in September 2018, just two years after the end of his 17-year playing career. They picked Brand, partly because he was willing to work in collaborative decision-making. Brand’s only previous executive experience was as the GM of the Sixers' G League affiliate in Delaware.
Fast forward to Aug. 25, 2020. Brand acknowledged the “collaboration days didn’t work too well" on the heels of the Sixers being 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.
League sources have said the Sixers are inquiring about the possibility of hiring a president of basketball operations.
One source said that Portland Trail Blazers president of basketball operations/ general manager Neil Olshey might have some interest in the Sixers, but that’s only if he has total power, as the president and general manager.
Former Atlanta Hawks president of basketball operation/GM Danny Ferry’s name keeps popping up as a possible candidate. But the Sixers keep shooting that down.
They also denied that they were planning to take another run at Myers. That would not have mattered, anyway. The Golden State Warriors president of basketball operations and general manager isn’t interested in coming to Philadelphia, according to sources.
A source also believes the Sixers will attempt to inquire about Houston GM Morey and Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard. The source, however, believes it’s unlikely that they would be interested.
It wouldn’t make that much sense to go after any of those types of candidates, knowing they won’t come to Philadelphia. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said Morey’s job is safe following the team’s second-round playoff elimination. He signed a five-year contract extension in March 2019.
The best bet would be to go after a No. 2 guy from a good organization they can sell as someone who will straighten everything up.
The team’s front office has been relying on analytics to make questionable draft picks, trades, and free-agent signings that set the franchise back.
So what about the stated restructuring of the front office?
Multiple league sources don’t expect Alex Rucker, the executive vice president of basketball operations, to be back next season. As of Wednesday, there had been no announcements or changes about the team’s front office.
Has the team changed its mind? How serious are the Sixers about evaluating and making changes to their front office?
In addition to Rucker, assistant GM Ned Cohen and VP of strategy Sergi Oliva were also involved in the decision-making as the team relied heavily on analytics.
Time will tell who the Sixers opt to let go in their quest to get more basketball minds in their front office, or if they will re-assign Cohen, Oliva or others.
But that could be a decision made by a new president. The thought is whoever comes in would want to bring his own people in. In fairness, that could be the president’s decision, assuming they hire one.
The Sixers ownership loves analytics. So at least some could remain but be out of the loop in regard to decision-making. They could just be information gatherers.
The thought is that whoever comes in would want to bring his own people. In that instance, Brand could stay as the face of the franchise, but it would be tough to imagine his voice being louder than the actual president when it came to making decisions.
But what if they decide not to bring in a president and keep their front office intact? Will people view this as 2018 all over again?