Bob Ford: With president Rod Thorn's removal, 76ers show they want to pick up the pace

Posted: June 14, 2012

Rod Thorn is an NBA lifer, and he knows there are a lot worse ways to be removed from a job than the one he is currently experiencing with the 76ers.

Thorn has made a long career out of getting along, out of working the slow play of building a basketball team. A little progress here, a little reason for hope there, and the years can add up to a comfortable life of administering a roster without ever necessarily attacking it.

That probably sounds harsher than it should, because a team can also suffer just as easily in the hands of a general manager who tries to do too much too quickly as it can with someone content to sit behind a desk and let things play out.

With the Sixers, Thorn found himself in a situation with a new set of owners who didn't make their money by investing in IBM and turning off the computer and with a head coach too impatient to wait for microwave popcorn. Thorn is 71 years old, and the feeling within the organization is that the Sixers want someone younger and less risk-averse during what promises to be a very hectic time ahead. "We need a barracuda," one high-ranking team source said recently.

Thorn isn't exactly a tuna, but he doesn't swim comfortably with the sharks, either. He made what appears to be one genius move in his career as a general manager, and that was lifting Jason Kidd from Phoenix when Thorn was with New Jersey. It was Thorn's good fortune that the Suns mistakenly thought Stephon Marbury could be something other than a team-killer, and the Nets went to the NBA Finals twice with Kidd.

Otherwise, Thorn has harvested from the low limbs of the player tree, although seldom lower than during his two seasons with the Sixers. While Collins chafed this season as he attempted to win games with a mismatched roster that couldn't shoot the basketball and wasn't tough enough in the paint, Thorn traded away Marreese Speights for low draft picks, picked up Sam Young as little more than injury insurance, and sent Craig Brackens to the D-League and then brought him back again.

Maybe he couldn't have done much more, given the Sixers' salary-cap situation and what was available at the trade deadline, but he damn sure couldn't have done much less.

In any case, the ownership team and the other important members of the basketball operation - a list that doesn't extend far past Collins - felt it was time for a fresh approach. The team is interviewing possible replacements, with Thorn taking part in the interview process as he heads toward a consulting role that probably won't include much consulting.

It is a generous parting and reflects respect for Thorn, who is one of the nicest guys in the game. It also leaves no doubt, however, that the days of passive management are over. The new general manager or president, or whatever they choose to call him, will be the fourth person to sit in that chair in five years. Billy King was replaced by Ed Stefanski in 2007, and Thorn was brought in by Ed Snider to oversee things in 2010. Two seasons and one ownership change later, the wheel spins again.

By all indications, it will spin quickly this time. If this were not going to be a busy offseason filled with upheaval, the management change wouldn't take place now. Although team sources are saying that it could take as much as a year to get the new guy in place and that Thorn will be in charge until that happens, don't believe it. That's just another way to make the transition appear gentler and less like the vote of no-confidence that it actually is. The new general manager will be here and he will be here very soon.

Then what will happen? Good question. If the team is going to be as aggressive as this makes it seem, you can figure the Sixers will amnesty Elton Brand, with the owners willing to eat $18.6 million for the cap room it provides.

You can also figure that Andre Iguodala will be traded, and that part is for sure. The Sixers don't feel Iguodala and Evan Turner are compatible on the court, and Turner's late-season and postseason development sealed that deal. Turner has some terrible holes to his game, but he is one of the few players on the team with a true competitive fire. He is Collins' type of player, in other words.

What else? Well, what else won't happen? Only Turner, Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young, Nic Vucevic, and Lavoy Allen are definite to return. The rest of the roster is either going to be dismissed or allowed to sign somewhere else for more money than the Sixers want to pay.

The next steps will be up to the new general manager, to fill all those holes, to find the right guy in the draft, to get the right deal for Iguodala, and to sign the right free agents. That's asking a lot, but the team will have some money in its pocket, and the marching orders will be to make aggressive decisions and take some chances.

It should be fun to watch, and the action promises to take place fast and furious. Then, two or three years later, the Sixers will find out if that was really better than slow and steady, after all.


Contact columnist Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @bobfordsports. Read his blog, "Post Patterns," at www.philly.com/postpatterns

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