76ers top need is not a coach but a GM

Posted: April 22, 2013

Josh Harris, majority owner of what remains of the Philadelphia 76ers, said last week that the organization is in the "advanced stages" of buying a D-League franchise.

For those keeping count, that will give them two of those.

There is no other way to look at the local NBA team at the moment. Getting a minor-league franchise is somewhat redundant for Harris and his merry band of amateurs, but at least a coaching change doesn't run $4.5 million in that league.

That's what it cost Harris to achieve some measure of peace when Doug Collins decided to resign but wanted the final year of his contract as a parting gift. Collins got what he wanted, beneath the beard of an advisory position, and Harris learned another lesson about how the NBA works. He has a few more to go.

Over the last 30 years, this franchise is not a stranger to seasons of upheaval that cast the team into darkness for some years afterward. The Moses-for-Ruland-Daugherty-for-Hinson draft day debacle in 1986 triggered just such a depression. The decision to trade an increasingly difficult Charles Barkley in 1992 was another pivot point. When the Allen Iverson Experience (Act I) finally rolled craps in 2006 after a sharp downward spiral, that parting spun the team into a ditch from which it has never really emerged.

For the 2012-13 season, there was a faint glimmer, a chance to hit the lottery, and there is no way to blame the team for taking the chance. That isn't to say that everything was handled correctly with Andrew Bynum after the trade was made - clearly, there are plenty of mistakes to go around, starting with Bynum and his agent, David Lee, who sprung the news of that late-offseason German knee procedure on an unwitting organization. The strudel was already baked by that time, however, and, because Bynum tried to do too much too soon, pretty soon the Sixers were cooked, too.

If the team had a stronger front office, would the same thing have happened? If there wasn't an obvious organizational push to get Bynum on the court for the start of the season, would he have recovered in time to play a fair portion of the season? Good questions. Put them in the team time capsule with the others. Would Roy Hinson have been an effective player if Barkley hadn't purposely knocked him down and dunked on him the first day of training camp?

At the moment, the Sixers have more pressing questions to answer than those regarding the sad Bynum denouement. Forget who will coach the team. Who will run the team? Collins acted as the de facto general manager during his three seasons, and it's a good guess that his advisory role won't require that much attention. Team president Rod Thorn is easing into retirement. General manager Tony DiLeo, who has been a loyal, competent company man for years and got the GM title last year when the team couldn't find anyone else, doesn't seem to fit the job that must be done.

Harris needs to find a sharp, aggressive NBA architect. He'll have to spend some money to get him but will be able to hire such a guy now that Collins has moved on. Anyone who looked at the GM job when Collins was still coaching knew that it would represent a partnership at best.

The job is massive, make no mistake. Right now, the 2013-14 Sixers are Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thad Young, Spencer Hawes, Jason Richardson, Arnett Moultrie, Lavoy Allen, and Kwame Brown (if he exercises his $3 million player option, and, just between us, it's difficult to imagine his getting a better offer). That roster has quite a few holes to fill.

Then there is the matter of what to do about Bynum, who becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1. Because he is their free agent, the Sixers can exceed the cap to keep him, although that might not be such a brilliant idea. The team had insurance on him this season that covered approximately $6.75 million of the $16.9 million on his contract, but the big guy is uninsurable now. It seems unlikely the team will take a second bite of a rotten apple. Harris said that decision hadn't been made. They've got to take a look at the "analytics." You do that, Josh.

There will be some money available under the salary cap, but top free agents aren't coming to the Sixers. Why would they? There is an unlimited amount of money to hire a new coach, but the same goes with the top available candidates in that field. Who wants to rent a room in an apartment building that is on fire?

Harris said the team was "making progress," and no one had the heart to make him describe that progress. He also asked for "the fans and the city and everyone to bear with us."

That won't be necessary, really. They'll just ignore you, and will do so until the team requires their attention again. It won't be tomorrow.


Bob Ford:

A Destination No

Ex-coaches want nothing to do with the Sixers job. Inside the 76ers, E8.


Contact Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com. Read his blog at www.philly.com/postpatterns. Follow @bobfordsports on Twitter.

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