ESPN has obtained the full 13-page resignation letter Sam Hinkie sent to the Sixers’ ownership.
“I hope this letter finds you well. I have been serving the Sixers at your pleasure for the past 34 months. Atul Gawande, a Surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, remains (from afar) one of my favorite reads. He laughs that reading scientific studies has long been a guilty pleasure. Reading investor letters has long been one of mine.”
The Risk with Joel Embiid
“You can be right for the wrong reasons. In our business, you’re often lionized for it. You can be wrong for the right reasons. This may well prove to be Joel Embiid. There is signal everywhere that Joel is unique, from the practice gyms in Lawrence, Kansas to Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania to Doha, Qatar where he does something awe inspiring far too regularly. We remain hopeful (and optimistic) about his long-term playing career, but we don’t yet know exactly how it will turn out. The decision to draft Joel third, though, still looks to me to be the correct one in hindsight given the underlying reasoning. But to call something that could be wrong (“failed draft pick”) right (“good decision”) makes all of our heads hurt, mine included.”
“Some tradition awaits us everyday at the office. I inherited Marlene Barnes as my executive assistant, a widowed lifelong Philadelphian that joined the Sixers in the fall of 1977. I was born in the winter of 1977. Marlene has worked for 11 different GMs and 5 head coaches at the Sixers. The names evoke many memories for you lifelong Sixers fans and students of history like me: Pat Williams, John Nash, Gene Shue, Jim Lynam, John Lucas, Brad Greenberg, Larry Brown, Billy King, Ed Stefanski, Rod Thorn. With us, she was immediately thrown into a new, more entrepreneurial work environment with a boss full of quirks different than any she had ever encountered. She adapted wonderfully, and now is a regular Slack wizard along with much of our staff, has seamlessly plugged into one productivity hack after another, and has ordered more books from Amazon than she ever thought possible. Her presence served as an everyday reminder to me of the impermanence of my leadership. I told her within a few weeks of working together that when I see her in the mornings I’m reminded that I am a steward—today’s steward—of her Sixers.”
Disruption and Some Weird Talk about a Flightless Bird
“We should attempt to gain a competitive advantage that had a chance to be lasting, hopefully one unforeseen enough by our competition to leapfrog them from a seemingly disadvantaged position. A goal that lofty is anything but certain. And it sure doesn’t come from those that are content to color within the lines.
This is true everywhere, as the balance in any market or any ecosystem ebbs and flows until something mostly unexpected lurches ahead. We see it in spades—past, present, and future.
• New Zealand’s flightless bird the moa (measuring in at 10 ft, 400 lbs.) had the life tramping around the South Island for a great long run; then the first Māori explorers washed ashore in canoes, and that was that.
• I still miss Blackberry’s keyboard, but the 2007 iPhone debut rendered it nearly obsolete to all but a few of us curmudgeons.
• Watch what’s happening with the collaboration between IBM’s Watson and M.D. Anderson or Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo. It won’t be just an ancient board game that’s disrupted. It’s also anything but a game to Lee Sedol.”
Throwing Some Snark at the Team he Inherited
In May of 2013 when I spoke with several of you—and even when we first met in the summer of 2012—the situation was clear. Your crops had been eaten. A team that clawed its way to a disappointing 34 wins in 2012-13 had a few handfuls of those wins walking out the door (Dorell Wright, Nick Young, Damien Wilkins, Royal Ivey) and a player that drove a bit more who had just undergone a surgery and was expected to be out for the season (Jason Richardson). That left the club with expected wins in the low 20s before replacing anyone. The young players on rookie-scale deals numbered two: Evan Turner & Arnett Moultrie. Two future first round picks were gone as was the recent youth pipeline of Nik Vučević & Moe Harkless. Gulp …
The strategy we settled on was straightforward, even if arduous. Replenish the talent pipeline, improve the quality and quantity of players on the roster, shift the style of play towards tomorrow’s champions, and become a culture focused on innovation.
You heard me speak of these goals at each of our quarterly board meetings; always the same since June of 2013. Variety is overrated. This continuity of focus has served to frustrate many. I’ve found those most frustrated are those that either underestimate the enormity of the challenge or fundamentally want something else. Specifically, we set out to maximize the odds of acquiring star players using all three available methods of acquiring players (draft, free agency, and trade).
1. Draft: invest in the deepest pool of star players—young players via the NBA Draft.
2. Free Agency: maintain financial flexibility to assume contract liabilities of other teams to acquire picks and prospects and move quickly toward special opportunities in signings/trade.
3. Trade: gather attractive, improving players to (best case) develop to win games for the Sixers, or (worst case) trade for better players or players likely to improve at a faster rate.”
He toots his own horn a bit here, mentioning that he brought “more than one draft pick (or pick swap) per month to our coffers” in his first 26 months on the job. That is incredibly impressive.
And a Legitimately Tearjerking Farewell
“It’s clear now that I won’t see the harvest of the seeds we planted. That’s OK. Life’s like that. Many of my NBA friends cautioned me against the kind of seed sowing that felt appropriate given the circumstances for exactly this reason. But this particular situation made it all the more necessary, though. 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.
I will be repotted professionally. That is often uncomfortable; most growth is. But it’s also often healthier over the longer sweep of history, too. In the interim, I’ll probably be with my wife and kids for a few weeks. If you need to reach me—now or later—I am available at [redacted email address] and I suspect someday soon on Twitter via @samhinkie.
I wish you the best of luck. Like other Sixers fans, I will cross my fingers for you on lottery night in New York.”
And just like that, the NBA’s ultra nerd is gone.