Sam Hinkie’s Departure Shines Light On Flawed 76ers Ownership

Dec 7, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers owner Joshua Harris (L) introduces Jerry Colangelo (R) as special advisor before a game against the San Antonio Spurs at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 7, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers owner Joshua Harris (L) introduces Jerry Colangelo (R) as special advisor before a game against the San Antonio Spurs at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

In the wake of Sam Hinkie’s departure from the Sixers, the real story is not whether he was right to leave or how his tenure is valued, but rather how terribly flawed ownwership has been revealed to be.

Sam Hinkie is out as General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, having resigned via manifesto, and fans and writers alike are desperately trying to frame the post-mortem. While it’s tempting to draw as many conclusions as possible with respect to Hinkie’s tenure and the future of the Sixers now that the Colangelati are in control, there is very little we can safely conclude. On his podcast the other day, Zach Lowe asked Sam Hinkie if Embiid would be a bust or a multi-time All-star. Hinkie responded that, while admittedly an unattractive answer, he simply does not know. Were the last 3 years were a success? Is “The Process” truly derailed? Is Sam Hinkie a better drafter than Bryan Colangelo? As unfulfilling as it is to admit, we simply just don’t know.

What we can conclude with great certainty after what just transpired, however, is that the Sixers ownership is seriously flawed. In hindsight, we really gave Josh Harris, David Blitzer, and Co. way more credit from day one than they ever deserved. Beaten and downtrodden by years of neglect from previous owner Ed Snider, fans rejoiced and celebrated when Harris and his Wall Street cronies took over simply because they actually appeared to take an active interest in the Sixers. Go figure, an owner that gives a damn! Turns out simply being interested doesn’t mean much if you have no idea what you are doing.

Lets start with the macro picture. As the guys over at the Sixers Beat discussed Wednesday night, “The Process” really began with Harris, long before Hinkie was hired. It was Harris who, in the face of the disastrous Andrew Bynum trade, insisted he believed in the Front Office’s decision making process irregardless of a bad result. These were owners who had a plan and were going to stick to it, and we bought that line. At the time it seemed like Hinkie was just the next logical step in that vision.

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Turns out these owners have no plan. It’s been four and a half years since Harris bought and we are now on to the third iteration of the 76ers identity. First, it was staying the course with Doug Collins, Ed Stefanski, and Tony Dileo, while mortgaging the future for the present in the form of the Bynum trade. A year later, the entire front office is gone and Hinkie’s nuclear winter approach to asset building is installed. By any reasonable metric, that plan has more or less “worked” to date.

Nonetheless, now Harris has spurned this radical, modern, nuanced approach in favor of embracing the Old Boys Club by hiring the entire First Family of the NBA. Jerry and Bryan know everyone, have great relationships with agents, have 50+ years of executive experience, have never played professional sports, and have zero championships between the two of them.

In retrospect, all three identities the Sixers have had under Harris’ watch are vastly different and internally inconsistent. And no matter how you felt about any of these plans individually, the fact that this ownwership cannot decide on an identity for this team is concerning to say the least. At this point would you be shocked if, irrespective of how the Colangelati perform, they are gone in two years as well? Will there ever be any consistency with this team? It doesn’t take a 13-page opus to know that the better teams have consistent leadership.

Speaking of that 13-page opus, the circumstances of Hinkie’s departure don’t do the owners any favors either. There’s only two possible explanations for the squeeze the owners put on Hinkie: 1) They wanted to force him to resign by slowly bleeding away his authority, or 2) they actually thought he would accept a diminished role with the Colangelati. The former displays a complete lack of spine, the latter a complete lack of a working brain. Seriously, why not just fire him? If Harris had fired Hinkie, he would have projected confidence and control, while also suggesting the faint image, however false, of having a plan for the team. Instead Harris looks like a man overwhelmed by circumstances he himself created.

Hinkie clearly had lost respect for the ownership, as evidence by the aforementioned 13-page manifesto that spends eight of those pages outlining the exact plan we’ve all been talking about and debating for three years. Did he really have to spell it all out, again, after 40 trades and endless cap space and the rotating cast of undrafted players? It was as if he was saying, “All this time and you idiots still don’t get it.” Maybe they didn’t get it, even if most of the Sixers faithful did. (For what its worth, I found parts of the letter to be interesting, but overall its a strange document that reflects poorly on Hinkie. I am not surprised to hear that he’s embarrassed it was leaked.)

And lastly, of course, is the hiring of Bryan Colangelo. If Bryan is a good GM is a topic for another day, but the fact that the Sixers just allowed one of the most egregious cases of sports nepotism to unfold in their own house is pretty astounding. Again, we are left with only two real explanations for the chain of events leading to this. In the first scenario, Jerry insisted on Bryan’s hiring back in December when he was brought on as Chairman. In that scenario, Harris had given up on Hinkie and his plan far earlier than we knew, yet didn’t have the guts to fire Sam at the time and instead opted for a long process of passively smoking Sam out. In this scenario, our Owners are schizophrenic and weak.

Alternatively, Bryan was never initially discussed and Harris and the Wall Street Titans just got rolled by a 75 year old Sith Lord. Jerry came in and pushed his agenda right down the throats of a bunch of rich, easily manipulated fools. “Sign Kwame Brown!” “Sure!” “Win only 10 games!” “Why not!” “Hire my son!” “Heck yeah!” Do these fools even have opinions, or do they just do whatever the next guy says? However it is that Bryan landed in the GM seat, its a bad look for Ownership.

Next: Sixers Players Express Gratitude Towards Hinkie

The fate of the Sixers is still unclear. We still don’t know if Hinkie drafted wisely nor do we know if the Colangelati will draft wisely. We don’t know if Embiid will be healthy or if Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, and Jerami Grant will be on the team much past when Bryan gets the reins. What we do know is that the Sixers ownership currently has no plan for the on-court product, and its possible that they’ve never had one. And that, more than anything else that has transpired this week, should make all Sixers fans very concerned.