Former Sixers owner and president Pat Croce was nice enough to join Drew and I on Broad Street Radio yesterday. Croce, who is fresh off discovering the wreckage of Sir Francis Drake, wanted to tell us about his new venture, Medkita, a physical therapy consulting company created to help PT practices improve their business’ efficiency and increase profits in a challenging economy. He also gave us his thoughts on the new Sixers ownership group and shared some stories from his time in charge of the team.
Croce still keeps a close eye on the Sixers and all goings-on in the Philly sports world. Here are his thoughts on the job that is being done by the new ownership group, which includes GSI Commerce founder Michael Rubin, with whom Croce met before the sale, and Adam Aron, who called Croce:
I have no relationship with the new ownership group, and I rate the job “A,” give them an “A.” You kidding me? Four stars. I love what they’re doing. I love the way they’re infusing passion, they’re using social media, they’re making it affordable. More importantly, it starts with a freaking vision, you got to have a vision. You want to create a great team. Mine was always a championship parade, and then you have to infuse passion and put your money where your mouth is. And since I left in 2001, it’s almost like it was a step-child.
I do know one owner, Michael Rubin, who is a friend of mine, and I didn’t know he was an owner until right before it happened. He asked me to come to lunch with him, and I was shocked. I said “Oh that’s fabulous, fabulous.” And he said if he knew the price was going to be that, he would have bought them himself.
Adam Aron did call me, guys, shortly after, just for a brief talk after they made settlement. The one bit of advice I said was “Reach out to the fans, and listen. They’re not phonies, they will know if you’re a Boozard [editor’s note: my Italian grandmother would be proud of that word] or are trying to BS them.”
So that was probably my very brief conversation with Adam, because Michael Rubin asked me if I would take a call from him, and I said “sure.”
It’s all roses for Aron and the new ownership group, but Croce isn’t a fan of the Sixers reverting back to the old-style logo, a move which was done by the sleepy former owners:
It’s not something the new ownership group did, but it’s something the old legion did… to go back and put the old logo on, to me, is stupid. It’s foolish. I’m a marketer, brander. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike the old logo, but you move forward! Now there’s no retro– you just keep going forward.
Maybe people didn’t like [what we did], I wanted to do snazzy, we used some of the colors. I wanted action, so we changed the logo. We had the NBA help, I had Iverson’s input, I had the fans' input. But why go back? Yeah, do it on retro night, do it when you’re bringing Moses and Doc and Toney and these guys to the games, but now [the Sixers] wear it all the time. They got no retro!
No one wanted [the old logo]. No one would wear anything with the Sixers logo, so I really had to clean house. No one was going to wear it. No one was wearing it. They wouldn’t buy it, Champion wouldn’t stock the stores. Even Modell’s, I talked to Mitch Modell, “What the f___ are you doing? You got to have our Sixers stuff in here! How are people going to buy it?”
He said “No one wants your stuff, Pat.”
I said “They will, they will.” That was my first year. “They will, watch.”
Croce also spoke about the role of a mascot. We were looking for his thoughts on the current mascot offerings, but Croce instead told us about his work with Hip Hop, and how he would read him the riot act:
A mascot should be part of the game, the show. When we did Hip Hop, at the time, he became good. I had the gorilla from Phoenix, who was the best. I had him doing all the evaluations and interviews.
But at times [Hip Hop] would slack and be complacent, him and Little G. And I would have them in my office, sitting in front of me, and read them the riot act, the “come to Jesus” meeting. I’d have Little G with his feet up on his chair. I gave him Benny Hill tapes, “Watch these! This is what I want you to do. Go attack women in the stands! Do what it takes to make people laugh. If you miss another dunk, Hip Hop, you're done!"
Since that time, the show has gone down hill, from everything– the dance team and everything. I do believe the show is part of the entertainment dollar, but it takes winning.
So, do they need a superstar?
Would it be great to have a superstar? Yes, because that will enhance the winning bubble at the end. Right now they're winning with defense, and they’re scoring. They’re enjoyable to watch. But it would be so much better if they had a superstar, and that's going to be hard unless they do some really strategic trading. Or somehow, when they get that draft pick, they strike gold. Because the NBA is made up of superstars… the Kobes of the world, the LeBrons, and the Wades. You look at Pierce, Pierce is still carrying a team on his back.
Speaking of superstars… Croce had one here in Philly:
When [Allen Iverson stepped over Tyronn Lue] in LA, down the aisle from me was Sharon Stone, and I’m pointing at her, “In your face!”
In your face, Sharon.
And on working with Iverson and Larry Brown?
Larry knows I did. Larry Brown was more high-maintenance than Allen. They were both high-tempered, high-talented, very focused on their world. Larry is high-maintenance, everyone knows that. Look it, Michael Jordan just released him. But he's a great coach. He's a fabulous coach. When Allen Iverson wanted me to fire him, there was no way I was firing him. When coach wanted me to trade Allen, I wasn't trading him until after that fourth year when Allen didn't obey the coach with conditioning, then I threatened him that he was going to be traded. Remember that Grant Hill one, Matt Geiger? Luckily, it didn’t happen. Allen, at the time said “Listen, Pat, I promise, I promise… I’ll be on time, I’ll practice, I’ll do this this and this.”
I said “Listen, if you do half of what you say you’re going to do, if you really walk the talk, then we’ll win a championship.” And he did come back to be MVP that year.
Listen, I love Allen Iverson. Was he high-maintenance? Oh my goodness, yes. You're not going to change anyone. But he was so talented. He was from the world of hip-hop, and I got Larry Brown who is from the world of bebop. One knows the streets of basketball, one knows the history of basketball. Together they were fabulous. Even though it was a love-hate relationship, together they were fabulous. Larry Brown was smart enough to surround the sun with blinking stars – whether it was Aaron Mckie, Eric Snow, George Lynch, or Tyrone Hill – guys who just went with their lunch bucket and just went to work. And you got Allen, like a water-bug, all over the place. He was fabulous.
Do it bother him how Iverson’s career ended?
Yes, it bothers me. I see Paul Pierce still playing. Kobe is still playing. They were all in the same draft.
The problem with Allen is – and being a physical conditioning coach as someone who is all about fitness – he would never do anything to enhance the gifts that God gave him. He wouldn't do anything in the offseason, and he'd still come the first day of camp and could run a mile in five minutes. But when that speed… the first time his speed was going to drop a little, then he’s going to be out of the league. Because if he doesn’t work on his game and on his conditioning and on his body, he’s going to fall apart.
He played the game like a professional quarterback – he hit, he'd run, he'd bang, he bounced off the floor. He had a football mentality and we loved him for it. And it just bothered me after I left, there was some issues there with him and the team.
If I heard him saying “PRACTICE," I would have gotten a cane and yanked him by the neck right off that dais!
Here is the full interview, which includes more from Croce about his fascination with pirates, his pirate museum, Jimmy Buffett (number one on the list of people I want to have a beer with), and some shows he has in the works.
Big thanks to Drew Cohen from Buzz On Broad for cutting up the show and assisting on the transcription. He has more from the interview with Croce.
You can learn more about Croce's new venture at Medkita.com.
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