I wrote out the CliffsNotes from the Josh Harris and Brett Brown press conference earlier in a sort of stream of consciousness style, kind of like a Ghostface verse from a Wu-Tang song. There are a lot of words, and they all sort of work together, but you then have to slow it down and run it through again.
So I wanted to listen to the 26 minute presser for a second time and try to focus on some of the more important quotes and come up with some takeaways from there.
For starters, I don’t really understand people ragging on Josh Harris for this idea that he’s not a great public speaker. I mean, he’s a wealthy businessman, not television star. He’s not Joel Osteen or Dr. Phil. What do you expect? Do you expect unparalleled eloquence and word weaving? The guy responded to everything we asked. He may not have given much of an answer in some cases, but he also didn’t try to overtly bullshit us. It’s not like he has tons of experience doing a press conference answering questions about an executive who was fired because his wife was running fake Twitter accounts.
Anyway, Brett Brown, of course, is always articulate and well-spoken, and he joined Harris on the dais.
That said, here are my organized thoughts on today’s press conference:
1. Harris used the term “general manager” throughout the availability, so I don’t knew if they’ll slap on the “president” label that Bryan Colangelo held when they bring in a new person. It doesn’t really matter, I guess. Seems like semantics to me, though “president” suggests a larger role when we know the person is really just a player-personnel executive.
2. There were two questions about Jerry Colangelo. Mike Sielski of the Inquirer asked if he held any influence during the investigation.
“Jerry was not involved with the process in any way. I’m aware of the press report, which is not true. We did give Jerry a heads up at the end of the process, this morning, just before seeing you all, but Jerry was respectful of the process we had to go through.”
Later, Harris was asked if the elder Colangelo would continue in his “special advisor to managing general partner” role:
“So that’s not today’s issue. I certainly appreciated Jerry’s counsel. His deal goes through the end of the year. We’re going to be talking about that and it’s not today’s issue. We’ve enjoyed having Jerry and this is unfortunate, but my respect for him is certainly not colored by this unfortunate situation. “
I don’t think this is as big of a deal as most people are making it out to be. Jerry is just a faux-figurehead with no true day-to-day role on the team, so they can essentially ignore him, ice him out, whatever, and just let him walk at the end of the year. If you wanna buy him out and move because you think that’s healthy, go for it. I’m sure some people feel like a purge of the Colangelo name is the way to proceed, but I don’t think it really matters that much.
3. Harris didn’t have much to say when Howard Eskin asked for comment on Bryan Colangelo’s statement, which claimed that he did not spill proprietary information to his wife. Harris basically said that the Sixers’ investigation was fair and that they’ll abide by the statements that were put out.
4. Brett Brown explained that he has spoken to all of his players, though there was immediate confusion when the story broke. I wouldn’t expect there to be any lingering trust problems here, since Colangelo will no longer be around.
5. Brown, while following up on a question for Harris about interim GM duties, went off on a tangent with some praise for what Colangelo did during his two years with the club:
“I think one of the tremendous legacies that Bryan should be recognized for is that he really – and I mean really – did a great job of putting key people in key positions. And when I look at our front office, the fire power that we really have with Alex Rucker and Ned Cohen and Danny Medina leading the medical department, (Harris speaks up and mentions Marc Eversley and Elton Brand) you can go on; we have the firepower that we need to move this forward and not miss a beat. I have no desire to get involved with the normal day to day stuff that a general manager would need to go through to build us. That’s not my desire at all, nor is it my belief that that is the way to move an NBA program forward. So my role is one of trying to provide the best leadership that I can, and show faith and support and have fun with this and move this program forward with them, over the next month or month and a half. The free agent market, the draft, keeping our current players on track, those are the things that will rule my day and rule our day. In regard to my role in all of this, it’s simply to provide a level of leadership with people I trust and respect and do my best moving forward.”
Specifically, Harris was asked if Brown will have the final say on this year’s draft selections. He gave a meandering non-answer about forming a consensus between a lot of different people. “If it really came down to it,” Harris said, the decision would fall to a combination of Brown, himself, and co-owner David Blitzer.
It wasn’t a great answer, just some businessman gobbledygook, the same stuff Jay Sugarman used to say when I worked the Union beat. Brown should have final say on draft night, end of story.
6. Harris did get a question about possibly giving Sam Hinkie another run in Philadelphia. He didn’t really answer it, but didn’t say “no” to the idea of a Hinkie return.
The full quote:
“We have a lot of respect for Sam and we appreciate how he’s positioned our franchise. We haven’t started thinking about (it). We’re going to do our best to find the absolute best GM moving forward and the absolute best leader for our basketball organization. We need to start to think about that now. The last week has been about moving as quickly as we could through this process.”
Harris didn’t put a time table on the GM search and didn’t seem worried about hard dates based on the draft or the start of free agency.
7. I asked Brett Brown, in regard to free agency, if it really matters who the player personnel executive is. I’ve written before about the modern day NBA and how players want to form their own super teams and how they make their decisions based on possible teammates and the available money. If you theoretically have the ability to play Joel Embiid, Markelle Fultz, and Ben Simmons in a fun and up-tempo system, does it matter who the GM is?
“In my experience, it’s the things you mention that ultimately attract a high-level free agent. You certainly can’t diminish the stability and the professionalism that a GM can provide. But when you say, ‘why did somebody go place someplace?’, you would think it’s because I’m playing next to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz, and I hope they respect the style of play we play, I hope they research me and my coaching staff. I think those things ultimately tip somebody in making a decision. I feel, as it relates to free agency, I think we’re gonna be just fine. I think we’re gonna go into the marketplace proud, with a real story to tell. I think this is going to be an incredibly attractive place of destination for many free agents. We feel good about where we’re at and we’re looking forward to getting out and attracting them.”
Harris jumped in without being prompted and spoke about the job Brown did selling JJ Redick on Philly. He mentioned that Redick, Brown, and Embiid were on the court together at 1 a.m. going through basketball motions and talking about the future. Harris sounded pretty confident that Brown would be a good salesman with free agents.
They’ll be fine, more than fine.
They’ve got pre-draft workouts taking place now, and Brown can handle those with his assistant coaches and VPs Ned Cohen and Marc Eversley. I think free agency is a different beast, and while Brett and his players are the prime selling point here, you need a GM to handle the contract negotiations and spread sheet stuff with player agents. Brett can be the salesman, but you need a “closer” to finish the job and handle the shrewd financial shit, if it comes down to that. You don’t want to leave your head coach and a committee of others to navigate the salary cap, do you?
Otherwise, I’m just glad this is all over. I didn’t have much of a hot take on the Colangelo situation; I just wrote about how the damage was already done when this thing broke. I think the Sixers did the right thing in parting ways, simply because the situation moving forward was not tenable.
Here we are now, with a 52 win team that features a pair of young superstars and a lot of cap room. I think you try to get this GM hire done by the 2nd week of July at the very latest and move on with life. Let Brett handle the draft.
No, Bryan Colangelo didn’t do anything amazing during his time in Philly, but we’ll see how Markelle Fultz pans out. That’s the move that will define his tenure here. But outside of the Jerryd Bayless clunker of a contract, he kept the Sixers flexible moving forward with short term deals and a couple of moves that didn’t require the forfeiture of assets (Belinelli, Ilyasova). Things could have been much worse.
But they’re not, and the future is still very bright for this franchise.