After the bizarre turn of events involving the Philadelphia Eagles and the White House-trip-that-wasn’t, it’s only fitting that the city turns its attention to the resolution of the Bryan Colangelo “Woodergate” scandal.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the 76ers’ owners convened in New York to discuss the fate of their president of basketball operations. According to Wojnarowksi, the decision to terminate or retain Colangelo could be announced today.
Thanks to the relentless sleuthing of various internet detectives, including Crossing Broad’s own Kyle Scott, it has become painfully clear that the man behind the curtain of the various Colangelo-linked Twitter burner accounts first investigated by The Ringer’s Ben Detrick is actually a woman: Barbara Bottini, the wife of the embattled Sixers executive.
Wojnarowski’s deeply-sourced reporting has corroborated the evidence gathered on social media; he asserted that the law firm that the 76ers hired to investigate the issue has interviewed Colangelo and Bottini during their own information-gathering process.
Given the deep embarrassment that this entire situation has caused the franchise, it appears imminent that Colangelo will be handed his walking papers.
There is simply too much at stake for the 76ers, who have only recently emerged from a painful rebuilding process that saw the team become something of a laughingstock. Armed with a talented, playoff-tested core, a lottery selection, and the cap space needed to reel in a prime free agent, now was not the time for the Sixers to once again become the butt of the joke. But the indiscretions of the Colangelo camp have eroded much of the hard-earned credibility the 76ers regained with their 52-win regular season campaign.
There’s no use contemplating the instability a Colangelo dismissal would cause in light of the earthquake generated by The Ringer’s feature on the burner accounts. The damage is already done. Colangelo’s inability to secure privileged information has not just made him expendable; it has endangered whatever offseason plan the Sixers front office has created.
Going forward, the Sixers’ ownership group should maintain continuity throughout the draft process and free agency. Quickly hiring a new general manager from outside the existing front office structure would only add to the turbulence. The answer is to promote from within, at least temporarily. Wojnarowksi’s report floated the names of assistant general managers Marc Eversley and Ned Cohen as two possible candidates who could shepherd the organization through this critical period.
The directive for Eversley and Cohen should be simple- execute the plan in place. Do not panic. And, above all, trust the process.
What the organization needs now is not an architect, but a steward. The foundation is already set with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Markelle Fultz will improve, adding another ballhandler to a dynamic offense. The supporting cast, led by Dario Saric and Robert Covington, is littered with players primed to take advantage of the space that Embiid and Simmons create on the floor. In short, the 76ers are a team that is primed to take the step over the line from development to contention.
The three-year extension the 76ers executed with Brett Brown enables the franchise to offer a prospective free agent or trade target an on-the-court stability that hopefully papers over the off-the-court drama.
At the moment, the 76ers are only contractually committed to 7 players beyond next season: Simmons, Embiid, Fultz, Saric, Covington, Furkan Korkmaz, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. It’s precisely the sort of salary cap situation that should entice a superstar free agent and, when the time arises, a proven general manager.
Frankly, the only obstacle that could impede the 76ers’ progress is an ownership group too fearful to realize that the decision before them has already been made by Colangelo. The fans who have bought into the “Process” philosophy have been conditioned to look to the future instead of dwelling on the past and the present. Josh Harris and his associates would be betraying the vision they implemented, beginning with the hire of Sam Hinkie, if they decided to keep Colangelo in the fold.
Colangelo’s reputation, at least in the short term, has been shredded. How can he be trusted after the cavalier way he handled privileged information about the players on his roster? Will he be able to repair the damage to his relationships with Embiid, Fultz, and their people? Will he be taken seriously by prospective free agents and their representatives, or will he be viewed as a diminished executive whose long-term future is in doubt?
If the 76ers were in the beginning stages of their rebuilding campaign, Woodergate might be a survivable offense. However, given the current state of affairs and the pivotal offseason period the organization is entering, there is no other option. If Sam Hinkie was not important enough to survive the progress demanded by “The Process,” then neither is Colangelo.
Harris and his cohort have dithered long enough. It’s time to part ways with Bryan Colangelo. Nothing less than the future welfare of the organization depends on it.