Why NBA pushed 76ers to hire Jerry Colangelo

jerry-colangelo-sixersThis week brought the big news that the Philadelphia 76ers have hired USA Basketball director Jerry Colangelo to a senior position. Colangelo had a long history of building successful teams during his decades as the Phoenix Suns general manager. So the hope is that he can speed up Philadelphia’s rebuilding process, which has seen the team go 38-148 over two-plus seasons.

The first thought that came to many people’s minds is how Colangelo’s hiring seems to usurp general manager Sam Hinkie, who’s guided the team through this difficult process. Specifically, Hinkie has looked to gain draft picks, promising young players and salary cap room while tanking the entire way.

It will be tough to tell how well this extreme rebuilding process goes because it has no end in sight. But what’s clear is that other teams around the league pushed NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to accelerate Philadelphia’s rebuild. And Silver’s solution was to facilitate a relationship between Sixers’ owner Josh Harris and Colangelo.

As ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reports, the key problem in other teams’ eyes is how badly the visiting 76ers affect their ticket sales and overall income. Here’s one excerpt from Windhorst’s article:

Owners routinely complained about the economic drag the 76ers were inflicting on the league as the revenues of one of the largest-market teams — a franchise expected to contribute more robustly to league revenue-sharing — sagged. For many teams, games featuring the starless and woeful 76ers as the visiting team have been the lowest-attended of the season, sources said.

Part of the league pushed for an NBA lottery reform last year, which the Sixers adamantly fought against. Any such reform would have hampered Philadelphia’s rebuilding plan, which includes tanking to get the highest lottery picks possible. The team’s complaining had an effect because it will be at least 2017 before lottery reform happens.

adam-silver-nbaIn the meantime, Silver saw helping bring Colangelo to the Sixers as a good compromise in light of no reforms. Philadelphia has stressed that Colangelo’s hiring will not diminish Hinkie’s role as general manager. Furthermore, head coach Brett Brown’s future with the team appears safe too.

“We are in deep discussions on my contract, and I have had amazing conversations with [owners] Josh Harris, David Blitzer and Sam Hinkie about my future,” said Brown. “This is where I want to be. To go through what we have all gone through over the past two years and the first third of this year and still be passionate about seeing this through, I dream like everyone else.”

Even with Brown and Hinkie still in place, Colangelo is likely to have a bigger voice in this franchise than what’s been presented to the media.

“Jerry is not someone who just comes in and gives advice on something he’s invested in,” a league executive told Windhorst. “I don’t see him as being just one voice in a collaborative process.”

Another interesting aspect to this story is that some league insiders believe Colangelo, whose estimated net worth is $300 million, could eventually buy a large piece of the 76ers. Assuming this happens, then he will no doubt have a large say in all personnel matters.

One big advantage that Colangelo could give Philadelphia moving forward involves using his USA Basketball position to lure star free agents. Assuming the Sixers can combine top free agents with their young talent, then opposing teams will no longer have to worry about half-filled arenas when Philadelphia comes to town.

But for the immediate future, betting on Philadelphia doesn’t look to change any time soon. They’ll still be huge underdogs on the spread against almost every team they face the rest of the season.

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