How should the Sixers fill their general manager opening?
It’s been 48 days since the former general manager Bryan Colangelo “resigned.” Since then, the only peep we’ve heard about a possible replacement is that the Sixers tried to steal Daryl Morey from the Houston Rockets.
In the meantime, head coach and interim general manager Brett Brown has made some moves of his own. Most notably, he traded Mikal Bridges for Zhaire Smith and a 2021 first round pick on draft night. (Miami) He’s also acquired Mike Muscala, re-signed JJ Redick and Amir Johnson while parting ways with Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, Justin Anderson, and Richaun Holmes.
Although Brown hasn’t done a poor job, it’s in the team’s best interest to appoint someone that is not also the head coach of the team. It doesn’t seem like there has been much of a search, but it’s worth talking about what the team seems to be looking for.
What are the team’s demands?
Owner Josh Harris has claimed he wants both an experienced general manager, as well as one willing to keep most of the front office intact.
#Sixers owner Josh Harris on the GM search: “ I think it’s going to take a while to find the right person.” The team prefers someone that already has GM experience. They also want someone that will keep some, if not all, of the front-office staff intact.
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) July 9, 2018
However, there are more than a few issues with this approach. For one, part of the reason Colangelo was forced out was because his front office lost their credibility. By keeping that same group in charge, you ignore a large part of the problem you just escaped.
Not to mention, hiring a general manager with experience is synonymous with hiring someone who has been fired at least once, likely due to a poor job done. The Sixers’ hired Colangelo due to his stellar reputation from his previous work in Phoenix and Toronto.
As it turns out, his status around the league helped the 76ers to acquire zero long-term pieces besides Markelle Fultz, who is still a question mark. Colangelo and his wife were the ones who ended up destroying the credibility he was hired for. Ownership should have learned that experience isn’t always a predictor of success.
Another issue with this strategy is it vastly narrows your search before it even truly starts. Obviously, there are only a few general managers out there that have experience and would also be willing to walk into a boardroom and just accept whatever guys are in there as his staff.
One thing is clear, Sixers management needs to make a move and start the process. Let’s look at some options to fill the general manager role.
The hottest front office commodity in the NBA appears to be Danny Ainge’s disciple Mike Zarren. The Celtics’ Assistant General Manager was a candidate for the opening in 2012, but instead, the Sixers went with Sam Hinkie.
Zarren is a Harvard Law graduate that specializes in data analysis and cap management. His résumé closely resembles Hinkie’s. His mentor is one of the more respected GM’s in the league, and he’s considered an analytics specialist, not a basketball guy. The founder of The Process himself tweeted out his respect for Zarren.
— Sam Hinkie (@samhinkie) January 4, 2017
Unfortunately for the Sixers, Zarren is a lifelong Celtics fan. After helping to build one of the league’s best rosters, he doesn’t seem so keen on moving on. For Philadelphia to lure him away from Boston, they’ll have to offer him at least the ability to hire his own staff. If they aren’t willing to do that, their chances of landing Zarren are close to zero.
Another option is former Nuggets general manager Kiki VanDeWeghe. The 59-year-old is more of a “basketball guy” than Zarren. The two time NBA all-star was a player, coach, and general manager before accepting his current role as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the NBA. His résumé would cover the team’s desire for an experienced candidate.
VanDeWeghe’s claim to fame is that he drafted Carmelo Anthony in 2003. However, after failing to get the team over the hump, Denver chose not to renew his contract for the 2007 season.
With the NBA lifer currently working alongside Adam Silver in the league office, it’s certainly possible that the commissioner offers his “services” to the Sixers once again. Of course, Silver played a crucial role in placing the Colangelo’s in charge of the 76ers.
In a lot of ways, the former Nets head coach serves as a foil to Zarren. As a former player, coach, and general manager, he offers far more experience, yet far less of a mathematical background. With the Sixers targeting an analytics pioneer in Morey, it seems they might be looking to go that direction. Regardless, the former small forward still serves as an intriguing option for the team.
The in-house option is current Vice President of Player Personnel Marc Eversley. Brown has somewhat voiced his preference for hiring from within, stating, “There’s so much in place that is good here”. Eversley would fit Harris’s desire to keep the current staff in place.
We don’t have much to go off of as far as Eversley’s role in personnel moves. However, if the team decides they want to promote from within, Eversley would be the leading candidate. Brown stated that he did not want the job long-term, and therefore would not be as likely an option.
What should the team ultimately do?
The problem with promoting from within is that it ignores the Colangelo debacle. When sensitive team information is leaked via Twitter, everyone involved loses credibility. Not to mention, even before the Twitter scandal, it’s not as though the front office was a well-oiled machine. The team assembled today is good, but it’s not yet capable of winning a title. The 76ers will need to take a real risk as they pursue championship contention.
If Zarren is not available for hire, which appears to be the case, ownership should look for some upcoming general managers elsewhere. Their attempt to snag Morey was futile but shows an inclination to look for more analytically-oriented minds. Options that fit this criteria include former Hinkie disciple Sachin Gupta.
The Sixers approaching Morey shows a clear desire to revert to the Hinkie era. There’d be no better outside the box option than Gupta, who Hinkie credited for all of his roster moves.
Great article, but I'd change the title — Meet Sachin Gupta, The Driving Force Behind *All* of Sam Hinkie's Trades https://t.co/XOQp6BJhjF
— Sam Hinkie (@samhinkie) January 31, 2017
Gupta is currently working as a Special Advisor to Morey in Houston. Should the Sixers get their hands on him, they’d be hiring a man familiar with the 76ers staff, as well as one with experience in key front office roles. Gupta was crucial in constructing this roster, and it’d be very poetic for him to return and complete the Process.
Hinkie and Gupta did a great job to put the Sixers in the position that they are in now. However, with the threat of the Celtics’ ever-improving roster, the team can not afford to play this hire safe. There is work to be done to this roster, and a bold hire like Gupta could be enough to push the team over the edge into title contention.
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