Sam Hinkie didn’t just resign yesterday.
He resigned in a 13-page letter to the 76ers’ 12 owners.
ESPN published the entire letter, and it’s a doozy. I highly recommend reading the entire thing. It’s thought-provoking, revealing and a little ridiculous.
A few of my favorite parts:
Hinkie on the Process:
You can be wrong for the right reasons. This may well prove to be Joel Embiid.
Hinkie spends A LOT of the letter quoting other people. It’s sometimes hackneyed, but it does reveal insight into Hinkie’s influences. My favorite quote used:
In the short term, investing in that sort of innovation often doesn’t look like much progress, if any. Abraham Lincoln said “give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Hinkie – quoting someone else – on the range of maybe:
But our well worn thinking patterns often let us down here. Phil Tetlock, from just down the street at Penn, addresses this well in his most recent remarkable book Superforecasting where he quotes the great Amos Tversky saying, “In dealing with probabilities…most people only have three settings: “gonna happen,” “not gonna happen,” and “maybe”.” Jeff Van Gundy sums it up succinctly on our telecasts, “it’s a make or miss league.” He’s right. In some decisions, the uncertainties are savage. You have to find a way to get comfortable with that range of outcomes. If you can’t, you’re forced to live with many fewer options to choose amongst which leads over the long term to lesser and lesser outcomes. The illusion of control is an opiate, though. Nonetheless, it is annoyingly necessary to get comfortable with many grades of maybe.
Hinkie with advice that directly applies to your March Madness pool:
Howard Marks describes this as a necessary condition of great performance: you have to be nonconsensus and right. Both. That means you have to find some way to have a differentiated viewpoint from the masses. And it needs to be right. Anything less won’t work. But this is difficult, emotionally and intellectually. Seth Klarman talks about the comfort of consensus. It’s much more comfortable to have people generally agreeing with you. By definition, those opportunities in a constrained environment winnow away with each person that agrees with you, though. It reminds me of when we first moved to Palo Alto. Within about a week of living there a voice kept telling me, “This is great. Great weather, 30 minutes to the ocean, 3 hours to ski, a vibrant city 30 miles away, and one of the world’s best research universities within walking distance. People should really move here.” Then I looked at real estate prices. I was right, yes, but this view was decidedly not a non-consensus view. My viewpoint as a Silicon Valley real estate dilettante, which took a whole week to form, had been priced in. Shocker.
Hinkie fighting public perception and humble-bragging about his Marriot Rewards points:
There are plenty of caricatures of our approach on your behalf, the most common of which is that folks here don’t even watch the games. That instead there is some mystical way by which we make decisions that doesn’t have anything to do with building a basketball team. That’s simply untrue. Maybe someday the information teams have at their disposal won’t require scouring the globe watching talented players and teams. That day has not arrived, and my Marriott Rewards points prove it from all the Courtyards I sleep in from November to March. There is so much about projecting players that we still capture best by seeing it in person and sharing (and debating) those observations with our colleagues. What kind of teammate is he? How does he play under pressure? How broken is his shot? Can he fight over a screen? Does he respond to coaching? How hard will he work to improve? And maybe the key one: will he sacrifice—his minutes, his touches, his shots, his energy, his body—for the ultimate team game that rewards sacrifice? That information, as imperfect and subjective as it may be, comes to light most readily in gyms and by watching an absolute torrent of video.
Robert is a mistake I rubbed my own nose in for over a year. The 2013 Draft was a flurry of activity for us—a handful of trades and selections in both the first and second rounds. We had more action following the draft as we tried to finalize our summer league team and get the myriad trade calls set up with the NBA. I could see this coming a few days before and we informed the media that this kind of approach might lead to an unusually late start for the post-draft press conference. Several of you were still there late that night. At about 1:00 a.m. I went downstairs to address an equally exhausted media on deadline from their editors. When I returned upstairs, the undrafted Robert Covington was gone, having agreed to play for another club’s summer league team, eventually making their regular season roster. He torched the D-League that year, haunting me all the while. When he became available 17 months later, we pounced. But I shudder, even now, at that (nearly) missed opportunity.
Hinkie calling not trading for Joel Anthony a “tragedy”:
Many of us remember exactly where we were when tragedy strikes and we think of what could have been. For me—and this is sad for my own mental well being—that list includes the January day in 2014 when Miami traded Joel Anthony and two second round picks to our formidable competitors the Celtics. I can still picture the child’s play table I paced around at Lankenau Medical Center on my cell phone while negotiating with Miami’s front office. This was in between feedings for our newborn twins, when my wife and I were still sleeping in the hospital. Danny Ainge finalized that deal (and several other better ones) and received one first-place vote for Executive of the Year that season: mine.
Hinkie on what made him different:
Part of the reason to reject fear and plow on was exactly because fear had been the dominant motivator of the actions of too many for too long.
Say whatever else you want about Hinkie, but he was fearless. For more than two years, he took the 76ers down an unprecedented path of tanking. He fearlessly endured losses and criticism to acquire a wealth of draft picks and cap space.
Then, the 76ers got scared. They hired Jerry Colangelo, traded for Ish Smith and effectively ousted Hinkie. Maybe ownership’s fears were justified, but they ended an intriguing experiment.
At least we got this letter in the process Process.
Again, I highly recommend reading the whole thing.