Stephen A. Smith: A modest proposal for next Sixers GM

Suggested moves: Trade Andre Iguodala (right), but make Elton Brand (left) part of the deal, or persuade the owners to buy out the remaining three years of Brand's $51 million contract.
Suggested moves: Trade Andre Iguodala (right), but make Elton Brand (left) part of the deal, or persuade the owners to buy out the remaining three years of Brand's $51 million contract.
Posted: May 02, 2010

Summer always begins a few months early for the 76ers.

So, with that in mind, since Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider appears either too timid or too distracted to make pivotal decisions, and Peter Luukko, his right-hand man, has no choice but to feel the same, it's time to present someone who voluntarily will step up, take over the reins, and remind everyone that team officials aren't totally consumed by the Stanley Cups that have eluded them for 34 years and counting:

Stephen A. Smith, the man with a plan to turn your fortunes around - assuming general manager Ed Stefanski is let go, of course.

There's nothing else to assume, really. By not speaking out for their GM, the Sixers essentially have told Stefanski to stay on the job because he's still on their payroll for two more years. There has been no vote of confidence, barely a smile. To date, we don't even know whether they have given him the common courtesy of a "good morning," which is exactly why Stefanski should be like ex-coach Eddie Jordan and find another employer.

The Sixers won't tell someone new how difficult the job is, mind you. They'd be happy to pull the wool over someone's eyes and pretend this venture is like life on Wall Street before the economic recession, a life filled with perks, bonuses, and benevolent shareholders. They'll say there are enough fools to be duped into basketball apathy - totally ignorant of the ways they may have done that already.

But that's why I'm here. It's time to get it right.

There's a new boss in town, so here we go:

Bring Billy King back as the GM. Let him scout, recruit, network, pound the pavement, and have a significant say in whom the Sixers bring on board. Just make sure he doesn't overpay Dikembe Mutumbo or buy out another Chris Webber, and everything will be fine. His most valuable asset is his ability to ingratiate himself with opposing teams to get deals done. Plus, he's learned from his mistakes and deserves another chance.

Hire former Toronto Raptors head man Sam Mitchell as the new coach. Forget about his being fired by Bryan Colangelo. Despite a losing record in his four-year tenure, Mitchell advanced the Raptors to the playoffs his last two full seasons. He's well-respected by executives because of his old-school mentality combined with his new-school speaking skills. Plus, he's a former player. He has worked under great coaches such as George Karl and Larry Brown. And he'll never tolerate laziness or apathy from his players, which is desperately needed in Philadelphia.

Consider trading Andre Iguodala. Mainly if you can get someone to take Elton Brand off your hands, too. If you can't pull that off, persuade Snider and Luukko to buy out the remaining three years of Brand's $51.179 million contract. Or allow the next coach to keep him on the bench.

If it sounds insane, it's only to ears hearing a cash register, as opposed to a trained basketball eye watching what transpired with the Sixers this season.

The Sixers couldn't defend when Brand was on the floor. They couldn't run, either, which they were built to do. As a result, they were demoralized. They grew increasingly apathetic. And in the end, they tarnished any attractive qualities they may have had, prompting questions as to why any accomplished executive or coach would want to take this job.

A new executive can't be someone who just plays chess with players' careers or moves bodies like he's playing a game of Monopoly. He's got to be authoritative enough to make sure Iguodala and everyone else follows the same rules and regulations. That they understand there's no "I" in "team." That the first criterion for being a Sixer is actually wanting to be a Sixer, not just getting paid by them.

This executive also must be someone gifted in the art of communication. Someone willing to deal with the arduous task of talking to the fans of Philadelphia in a way that makes them feel a part of the franchise.

Snider doesn't do that very well. His next subordinate will need to.

"This town is tough," Stefanski has told me on several occasions. "It's a good thing. It shows they care. You worry when they stop caring."

Well, that would be now. The unflattering combination of no vision, no voice, and no direction will do that sometimes, specifically, with seasons like the one that just expired.

In the end it leaves a residue of misery. And who better to cure that than Yours Truly.


Contact columnist Stephen A. Smith at 215-854-5846 or ssmith@phillynews.com.

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