Was it the 76ers’ chronic losing? Probably not. They’re on just their third season of being dreadful, and their collection of assets should have the team on an upward track eventually. Lottery reform could’ve achieved quicker change than a new executive. Besides, I’m not convinced other NBA teams completely mind having an extra cupcake on their schedule.
Was it the 76ers’ low revenues? Probably. Their home attendance is poor, and they’re feuding with potential sponsors. That’s a problem in big-market Philadelphia in a league with revenue sharing.
But that apparently wasn’t the only factor for Silver’s intervention.
According to an NBA source, the league quietly pushed for the team to bring aboard Colangelo after the negative publicity created by the team’s response, or lack thereof, to the spate of incidents involving Jahlil Okafor. The failure of general manager and president Sam Hinkie to address the situation did not go over well with the rest of the league, according to the source.
“It made the league look bad,” the source said.
The 76ers are notoriously quiet. Owner Josh Harris is fairly private, and Hinkie is intensely so. No player has the cachet to speak on behalf of the team.
Coach Brett Brown is left as the face of the franchise (in addition to his duties as a player developer, tactician and mentor).
That’s acceptable when a team is winning, but when it’s losing, more communication is more important. The team can connect with fans and sponsors through other means than on-court success, like clearly articulating a plan for people to support.
When a team is losing and running into off-court trouble, it becomes absolutely necessary for the higher-ups to address the issues publicly. They must convey that the issues are being handled appropriately.
The 76ers released a vague two-sentence statement upon video of Okafor’s Boston fight first becoming public, which is a fine start. But nothing substantive followed. Hinkie declined comment when pressed by reporters.
Even as more Okafor issues – a previous altercation, high-speed driving, a fake I.D. – became public, the 76ers largely stayed quiet. It wasn’t until another video of Okafor fighting in Boston emerged that the 76ers acted. But even when announcing his two-game suspension, they didn’t attribute the decision to any individual or individuals. Attaching a name to the press release would have been the bare minimum, but they didn’t even do that.
And it’s not as if these problems are just public-facing. Internally, the 76ers didn’t ask the right questions to fully understand Okafor’s transgressions. I see that as a symptom of a franchise with major communication problems.
At his introductory press conference, Colangelo said:
“As long as I’m involved, I’ll always be available to the media,” Colangelo said, “and you will have access to me because that’s the only way I know how to operate.”
You can decide whether it was intentional or unintentional, but that’s a shot at Hinkie.
Either way, Silver wanted the 76ers to become more resistant to future attacks. So, here comes Colangelo.