Bryan Colangelo Initially Declined Sixers’ Offer to Work Under Sam Hinkie
When the Sixers hired Bryan Colangelo to be the team’s president of basketball operations last April, the team was quiet about what the organizational hierarchy would have been had Sam Hinkie decided to remain with the team.
While the team publicly talked about partnership and collaboration, most, if not all, assumed Colangelo would have been firmly at the top of basketball operations. Despite the writing being on the wall, when pressed on who would have final say in basketball decisions managing owner Joshua Harris only responded with “I don’t think it’s worth getting into that”.
On a podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports’ The Vertical, Bryan Colangelo finally confirmed what everyone had (correctly) assumed: Colangelo would have had final say. In fact, owernship’s initial reluctance to give Colangelo final say led to him turning down their first offer.
“The first time that I met with David Blitzer and Josh Harris I basically told them I’m not the guy for this job,” Colangelo told Wojnarowski. “But a good month and a half passed and they called me back and said ‘We want to revisit, would you be interested?’ This time I said sure, I’ll listen, but I’m not sure things have changed. But their approach changed, and obviously that approach was something where I wouldn’t be coming in to work underneath Sam [Hinkie]. I was going to be coming in to be the lead in terms of basketball operations.”
Colangelo also discussed his pursuit of the Brooklyn Nets job, which ultimately went to Sean Marks in February. Marks was previously the Spurs’ assistant general manager.
Colangelo losing out on the Nets position has frequently been cited as one of the reasons he was willing to revisit the Sixers opening, with Wojnarowski reporting in April that Colangelo preferred the Nets job and wanted no part of the Sixers’ opening because his father, Jerry Colangelo, was the chairman of basketball operations for the Sixers and he wanted to avoid the inevitable charges of nepotism.
Colangelo, who spent a good portion of the beginning of the interview talking about rebuilding the Sixers’ losing culture, did praise the position former general manager Sam Hinkie has put the franchise in going forward.
“This turns out to be a much more viable situation, with a clearer path to success in a much earlier fashion,” Colangelo said when comparing it to the Nets job. “[Hinkie] maybe took things to an extreme, but now you’re starting to see some of those things play out.”
Ben Simmons has Hall of Fame potential
Later on in the podcast Colangelo talked about Ben Simmons, discussing the kind of potential he sees in the player he selected 1st overall in June.
“Hopefully over the next five-to-ten years we’ll all be part of that same growth and that same process of him becoming a great basketball player, and becoming a Hall of Fame type of player,” Colangelo said about Simmons. “Does he have it in him? I think he does.”
Colangelo, who said Simmons “may have been a little bored” with his college situation at LSU, said Simmons has been a model teammate since joining the Sixers.
“Here’s a young man that has shown nothing but the highest qualities to us as an organization since he’s been here,” Colangelo said. “He’s in the gym whenever guys are in the gym playing basketball. He’s getting shots up. He’s working with the shooting coach.
“He’s been terrific. He gets along with everybody. He gets along with the people on staff, he gets along with the players that he’s been playing with, both in summer league and now that he’s been training with in the gym. So far everything is spot-on and we’re excited about what that looks like,” Colangelo continued.
Joel Embiid’s minutes restrictions not yet known
Colangelo also spent quite a bit of time talking about Joel Embiid, who is set to make his NBA debut after missing the past two seasons recovering from a fracture in the navicular bone in his right foot.
While Colangelo was quick to talk about bringing Embiid along slowly, he also spoke glowingly of his potential.
“He has a little bit of everything. He has great footwork, he has good passing instincts, he has good mobility,” Colangelo said about Embiid, pointing out that he’s been competing in 5-on-5 scrimmages for several months.
“Little by little every day you see a little bit more of a complete player. To see some of the things that he does instinctively that are difficult to teach, and more difficult to learn, he has it,” Colangelo continued. “If he stays healthy, I think you’ve got something special on your hands.”
In terms of how they’ll handle Embiid’s minutes, Colangelo said that is not yet fully determined.
“We’ve talked about taking him with a very measured approach to his playing time,” Colangelo said. “I don’t know what those minutes restrictions will be. I don’t know if he will be playing back-to-backs, and how long that will last, but I can tell you that we’re going to take a very measured approach, and a safe approach, with him. The doctors and the medical team will largely determine that.”
A more patient Bryan Colangelo
Colangelo spoke about his tenure in Toronto, and discussed how his success and failures have helped shape a different executive this time around.
Specifically, Colangelo spoke about taking a more measured, patient approach to team building.
“I think first and foremost is probably just being a little bit more patient. I almost felt like I could fix things almost immediately [in the past],” Colangelo said when discussing what’s different about his approach this time around.
“When I first got to Toronto and we had that immediate success — going from 27 wins the year prior, to 47 wins, Atlantic Division title, coach of the year, executive of the year — rather than try to slow people down and say ‘Look, this was a little bit of an anomaly. It happened, but we really need to take measured steps here,’ I tried to put my foot on the gas and probably got a little bit ahead of where we needed to be,” Colangelo said. “I think you’re going to see a much more patient [president of basketball operations]. I think I’m going to look at this thing from my own perspective a little bit differently.”
Colangelo said he’s already passed on opportunities to speed the rebuilding process up.
“There’s things that we could have raced out and done in free agency this year that we chose not to do. As the guy steering the ship so to speak, a lot of that was me trying to hold back some of what might have been a misuse of funds at this time,” Colangelo said.
“Regardless of what happens this year, whether we win a few more games or a lot more games than the 10 they won last year, I’m going to stay within the framework of the plan that we’ve laid out,” Colangelo continued. “Brett [Brown] and I have very meticulously laid out a plan and looked at it from a standpoint of where we want to be, not just at the end of this year but at the end of a three-to-five year window.”
You can listen to the full interview, which runs a little bit over an hour in length, over at yahoo.com.
Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine’s Sixers Post. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.