Inside the Sixers: New ownership for 76ers may mean changes in how they do business

Jason Levien (left), with Udonis Haslem, has experience working as a player agent and in an NBA front office. He is part of the group that reached a deal on Wednesday to buy the Sixers.
Jason Levien (left), with Udonis Haslem, has experience working as a player agent and in an NBA front office. He is part of the group that reached a deal on Wednesday to buy the Sixers. (J. PAT CARTERS / Associated Press)
Posted: July 14, 2011

It would be so neat and tidy to write that New York billionaire Joshua Harris and his ownership group weren't going to change a thing.

We could write that 76ers team president Rod Thorn will be retained; general manager Ed Stefanski will be offered a hearty slap on the back and some new business cards; and coach Doug Collins will be given the freedom to do what he does. And does quite well.

We could write that the new owners will slip into their new offices, change the nameplates, and everything will carry on without a hiccup.

The whole exchange could be kind of like changing the vanity plate on a Bentley.

But the reality is probably a little less clear-cut, and, for Sixers fans, some new blood is probably welcome.

After one last customary hurdle - approval from the NBA's board of governors - Harris and fellow investors David Blitzer, Jason Levien, and Art Wrubel will have paid approximately $280 million, possibly slightly more, to officially own 100 percent of the Sixers. Comcast-Spectacor, which has owned the team since 1996, rescinds operational control, but still owns the arena and the cable rights through 2029.

The Sixers then will become long-term tenants - the team isn't moving from South Broad - at the Wells Fargo Center.

Now that the details of the sale are understood, the immediate question becomes how the ownership swap will affect the team's basketball side. Considering that one of the new owners, Levien, was once an NBA agent and spent two seasons as assistant general manager of the Sacramento Kings, it's not a stretch to say there could be certain plans a-brewing.

Thorn and Collins have had conversations with members of the new ownership group, but no one has revealed any sort of insight into the new regime's long-term plans; at this point it will likely require a few months behind the wheel before even the owners know what direction is best.

As of today, though, a feeling exists within the team that at least a small amount of change will occur. Stefanski, whose contract with the Sixers will expire soon, is somewhat of a redundant presence considering that Thorn is now officially in charge of personnel decisions.

Couple Stefanski's role with Levien's and Thorn's, and that's like three quarterbacks hovering over center.

Something must give, and something will.

Collins' leadership is respected and required, as it should be. The new ownership group understands that his insight and expertise were the most crucial factors in last season's resurgence.

Absolutely zero plans exist to tamper with Collins' position.

The current NBA lockout, which will not be resolved anytime soon, will slow the revelation of how Harris and company plan to run the Sixers.

But for now, understand that organizational dynamics - and possibly even front-office personnel - are about to change.


Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at kfagan@phillynews.com or @DeepSixer3 on Twitter. Read her blog, "Deep Sixer," at http://go.philly.com/dsix

 

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