Perhaps I’ve been too hard on Joshua Harris. And maybe I’ve overstepped in my hinting that he could move the basketball team he owns in Philadelphia, which pays rent to the Flyers, to Newark to play alongside the hockey team he owns in the building he owns. It would, of course, make some business sense, and Harris does things with his assets that make business sense (he also does things with his beachfront homes that make business sense). But Harris has been adamant that he has no plans to do such a thing. So it’s only fair that we take him at his word.
But there are still many things about his unique ownership philosophy that I don’t like, and don’t trust.
When Harris spoke with Philly reporters on Sunday to open up about the team and his business dealings, he reiterated that he has no plans to move the Sixers.
The 76ers’ majority owner, Harris and his team of financial backers bailed out the bankrupt owner of the New Jersey Devils and bought the NHL franchise Aug. 15. The newfound pairing of Harris and the hockey club prompted questions of whether the New York-based businessman, using a newly entrenched relationship with New Jersey politics, would provoke a move of the Sixers to South Jersey, thus bookending the state with a pair of sports teams.
Not going to happen, said Harris, who on more than one occasion Sunday following the Sixers’ morning session of training camp echoed his commitment to the team and its footing in Philadelphia.
Vito does good work and may be the best Sixers scriptual, but this is the problem with sports people covering business– South Jersey? No. Any conjecture – from asshole bloggers and otherwise… – has been about the Sixers moving to North Jersey, where Harris now owns an arena, where the Sixers CEO now CEOs a hockey team, and near where Harris’ business operations are setup, in New York.
And something tells me the 222nd richest American already had a relationship with “New Jersey politics.”
Plus, Harris, obviously, understands the sports fan mentality:
“I understand if you are born and bred and live in Philadelphia, I can certainly understand that you’re an all-Philly fan. And so I acknowledge that,” Harris said. “My answer to the fans is, you know, I love the Sixers in Philly. I’m committed to it. I have personal ties in Philly through my mom and in Newark through my dad.”
He then went on to compare the Sixers to the chemical company he owns.
And personal ties to Philly through my mom? Anyone who cites a line like that as a reason why a billionaire would or wouldn’t do something for his business is a fool. It’s akin to Adam Aron trying to earn street cred by telling people that he went to Abington high school.
But hey, Harris took time out of his busy schedule to stop by Philly, on a Sunday:
“The fact that I also own a hockey team in Newark doesn’t change at all my commitment to the city, the Sixers and basketball. I’m here, on a Sunday, with my family. I’ve been at the games. I’ll be at the games. The number of hours I’ve spent putting in place Scott (O’Neil, the Sixers’ CEO) and Sam (Hinkie, the team’s general manager) and Brett (Brown, the Sixers’ coach) was enormous. I’m totally focused on the Sixers and won’t change one iota how driven I am to make this team a championship team.”
This is what gets me, though:
In what normally amounts to Harris’ preseason “State of the Sixers” address, he chose to use Sunday’s platform as an opportunity to focus on the team’s business operations.
Dividing his time between running the Sixers, the Devils and Apollo Global Management, an investment firm, requires delegation of responsibility. That’s why it took so long to get a new CEO, GM and coach in place for the Sixers this offseason, Harris said. He said spending money, in the form of maneuvering contracts and making trades, is not a fear. And he’s undeterred by the blunder of the Andrew Bynum deal, affirming that he will make similar acquisitions in the future if it leads to the betterment of the club.
I made sure I read that correctly, which I think I did: It took Harris long to put a CEO, GM and coach in place because he was so busy doing other things. Yep. This from the guy who had to jet early from Doug Collins’ firing press conference.
To be fair, however, Harris said he has very little to do with the day-to-day operations.
“I’m not involved in the day to day operations of those companies, and the same is true for the Devils and the Sixers,” Harris explained. ”Sam [Hinkie] runs the player side of the business, then coach Brown on the court is the general, then Scott [O'Neil] runs the business side and he reports up to the board, which I chair.”
“What you find is the way you get the best people is to empower them,” Harris said when explaining his managerial philosophy. ”If I was meddling too much, someone like Sam or someone like Scott wouldn’t really want to work for me. They’d want to go somewhere else where they can have more flexibility and freedom.”
It’s basically what I said last week when talking about the impact Harris owning the Devils would have on the Sixers. It has none. His job is to hire the right people and provide those people with the resources needed to win. If he’s doing more than that, he’s causing more harm than good.
This was the summer where Harris feels like he hired the right people to start building the foundation.
Again, here’s another Sixers reporter glossing over an obvious inconsistency: Bodner excuses Harris’ duel ownership because Harris isn’t involved in the day-to-day operations (fine), but Bodner makes no mention of the fact that O’Neil, whose job it is to run those day-to-day operations, is doing it for two different teams, currently in two different cities.
That’s the problem with being too close, too entrenched with the team. It’s the problem with most news reporting, actually. There’s too much regurgitation and not enough actual questioning. And that’s why people like Harris do these sorts of media events. Let me tell you the things you want to hear… on a Sunday… because I’m too busy during the week.