NBA AM: Sam Hinkie Is Out, Bryan Colangelo Is In


The End Or The Beginning?

Last night, Philadelphia 76ers President and General Manager Sam Hinkie notified the organization and its minority owners that he would be stepping down from his positions with the team.

While the timing of the move was surprising, the eventuality of it happening was not.

In December, after some conversations with a number of parties including NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Sixers majority owner Josh Harris hired long-time basketball executive Jerry Colangelo to be his basketball eyes and ears and help him understand how to fix the seemingly stuck-in-rebuild Sixers.

At the time, the hiring was labeled an augmentation of the Sixers leadership and that Hinkie still had the trust and support of the team and was without question still the team’s general manager.

Hinkie did his part, talking about Colangelo as more of a mentor and sounding board and as someone who helped bridge gaps and was a great resource.

However, over the last few weeks, there had been rumblings that Colangelo was pushing for changes inside the Sixers’ structure, that he wanted more basketball experienced people inside the operation and that maybe removing Hinkie as the head of the team was the right thing to do.

Many around the NBA thought Hinkie would ultimately remain with the Sixers, but in a different and more suited capacity to his strategic thinking and ability to plan.

There was a sense that the Sixers were going to bring in a proven NBA operator.

The Sixers had discretely reached out to the likes of Danny Ferry, the former executive of the Atlanta Hawks and there had been on-going talk that had Bryan Colangelo not gotten the Brooklyn Nets job (which he ultimately did not), that he would consider working for the Sixers under his father.

The plan, at least as other executives understood it, was that Hinkie and whomever the Sixers hired would work together and ultimately answer to the elder Colangelo in a new power structure.

Hinkie apparently disagreed, announcing his resignation and firing off a 13-page letter to all of the Sixers minority owners.

The letter is an interesting look into the Sixers’ thought processes under Hinkie, but also a glaring example of the disconnect some ardent basketball people had with a more philosophically bound Hinkie.

The letter is littered with quotes from leaders and big thinkers across dozens of industries, and served as something of an explanation of the thought process that has gotten the Sixers where they are today.

Hinkie went to great lengths to describe and defend some of the decisions the team had made under his watch and underlined what he felt he delivered to the Sixers and their vision.

While the decision to leave was not entirely unexpected, there was a sense inside the Sixers that Hinkie was going to stay, which made last night’s announcement somewhat surprising.

The Sixers had been moving toward a deal with the younger Colangelo for several days, something that was accelerated last night, with the expectation that the Sixers will announce an agreement with Bryan Colangelo as early as today.

It is unclear how the change with Hinkie will affect other parts of the team including head coach Brett Brown, who inked a two-year extension in December – a deal that carries him through the 2019 season.

The Sixers could have as much as $60 million to spend in cap space and could end up with three, possibly four, first-round draft picks depending on how the draft lottery plays out in May.

For Hinkie’s part, he stated in his letter to ownership that he expected to be “repotted professionally.” There is little doubt that Hinkie’s time in Philadelphia will be looked at negatively because success in the NBA is measured by wins and losses, but with the assets Hinkie was able to accumulate in his time running the show, it’s hard to label what’s been done a failure because Hinkie has set the Sixers up for a very bright future.

Unfortunately, and as is the case a lot in professional sports, Hinkie won’t be around to finish the job.

Fisher Talks Phil Jackson

Former New York Knicks Coach Derek Fisher did some analyst work on NBA TV last night and while he tried to defuse the end of his tenure in New York, he did offer up some opinions on Knicks President Phil Jackson. Marc Berman of the New York Post transcribed some of the better parts of the segment, but the biggest news was the suggestion that maybe Jackson did not have all the answers.

“There’s an assumption that he’s supposed to know what to do in every situation. He’s also still learning as an executive, as a president of an organization, which is completely different than coaching,” Fisher said. “My assumption, without assuming, is there was a lot of learning he had to do and we all had to do while working together. … I think Phil is still settling in, but organization wide, they are still settling in as to who the Knicks are in their DNA.”

Fisher went on to say he thought the Knicks had some good players, but hinted that maybe the Triangle offense had run its course in the NBA and that there wasn’t as much time to teach players like there was when Fisher played for Jackson.

“I think the offense itself is compatible with just good basketball, but players are being taught to play basketball in a different ways,” Fisher said. “That extra time isn’t there like it used to be.”

“Roster-wise, there are good players there. I don’t think the roster was complete when the season started and it’s not complete now. So over the summer, the first step after the season is deciding, ‘Who are we as an organization, what style of basketball are we going to play? How are we going to convince free agents to come here and play for us?’ To do that, you have to have a vision for where you’re going.”

The Knicks will have to make a decision on who their next head coach will be and there is a growing fear among Knicks fans that Jackson may seek to retain current interim coach Kurt Rambis and potentially play a larger role in the day to day.

The Knicks also have to decide how they want to handle Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks star does hold a no-trade provision in his contract, but there is a sense that if the Knicks fail in free agency that Anthony might be willing to listen to the idea of being traded.

Fisher explained that his experience with Carmelo was that he wanted to win more than anything, something he’s gone on record saying repeatedly over the past month.

“From what I learned from coaching and being with Carmelo is that he wants to win, but he’s also willing to work with younger players and allow the development process to happen,” Fisher said.

League sources doubted that Fisher would be a serious head coaching candidate at any point in the near future and given that the Knicks still owe him three years and some $15 million, it’s not surprising to see Fisher dabble in television.

The Knicks are headed toward an offseason without a draft pick due to the Andrea Bargnani trade in the summer of 2013.

The Knicks look poised to have upwards of $24 million in cap space – even more if guard Arron Afflalo opts out of his deal as many are expecting him to do. In a best-case scenario, the Knicks could get close to $36 million if they cut and renounce everything they can.

For Jackson, he has roughly three more years left on his deal with the Knicks – a deal that pays him north of $12 million per season.

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About Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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