Inside the Sixers: Hinkie's coach search: Savvy, or too slow?

New Sixers GM Sam Hinkie has no room to be complacent. ( Yong Kim / Staff Photographer )
New Sixers GM Sam Hinkie has no room to be complacent. ( Yong Kim / Staff Photographer ) (Daily News/Inquirer)
Posted: June 10, 2013

One by one, the recycled names that come up every year - the ones that this year the 76ers were whispered to be interested in as their next coach - have come off the board.

Mike Malone, bolstered by the false impression created by media sycophants that he and not Mark Jackson was the brains behind the Golden State Warriors' playoff run, got the Sacramento gig.

Mike Budenholzer, believed to have had pixie dust sprinkled upon him for having worked so long in San Antonio under Gregg Popovich, got the Atlanta job, where Danny Ferry hopes to use reams of cap space to build a super team in the worst professional sports city in the United States.

Larry Drew, who openly campaigned to work in Philadelphia (God bless him), was never interviewed here but got hired in Milwaukee.

Other undesirable destinations such as Charlotte and Phoenix have their coaches in place and are prepping for the draft.

So, what does this mean for the Sixers?

Perhaps that president of basketball operations and general manager Sam Hinkie is going to go outside of the box, by choice or by necessity, in naming the first coach he will ever hire.

After all, with desirable destinations such as Brooklyn, Denver, the Los Angeles Clippers (and maybe Memphis) searching for coaches, rest assured that the Sixers, unlike the Eagles and Michael Vick, are certain where they stand on a desirability depth chart of the remaining vacancies around the league.

In the limited contact local media members have had with Hinkie - surely you have noticed how scarce the Sixers have made the former Houston Rockets assistant general manager - he has established what appears to be a meticulous route to what will be a career-defining hire for him.

On the day he was hired, Hinkie was asked about the names of the candidates rumored to be connected with the Sixers - the usual suspects - and he made it clear that while this was a decent list, he added: "It's not mine."

According to a source, Hinkie has not added George Karl, fired just a few weeks after being named coach of the year, to his list because Karl doesn't fit the mold of a young coach willing to take the inevitable lumps - there will be many - and grow with the personnel the general manager assembles the next couple of years.

It's impossible to determine whether watching guys perceived as the best coaching candidates go elsewhere is a stroke of genius or an indicator that the new head honcho is behind the eight ball in the process because of the deafening silence coming from the Sixers.

Whatever the case may be, it's starting to feel as though Hinkie is going to do what most general managers do - whether they graduated from Stanford with an MBA,or a state university - and that is going with what he knows and is comfortable with.

Houston top assistant Kelvin Sampson was a hot name early on, when teams started to discard unwanted coaches, but late in the process his address remains the same. Sampson, who coached with great success at Hinkie's alma mater, Oklahoma (279-109 in 12 seasons), was rumored to be connected with each job as it came open. Observers of the Rockets say that when Houston coach Kevin McHale left the bench early last season after the death of his daughter, Sampson was a natural calling the shots.

Chris Finch, also a Rockets assistant, coached the Rio Grande Valley Vipers to a pair of NBA Developmental League finals appearances, winning the title in the team's second appearance (2011). What's important to know here is that analytics played a huge role in the team's success, and Finch, a 1992 graduate of Franklin and Marshall College, is heavily invested in the use of advanced statistics.

When Hinkie finally does make a decision, he will be completely tied to his success or failure. If it is the latter, at some point the question will be raised whether or not (and why) he waited so long to pull the trigger or whether or not he outsmarted the pack and knew exactly what he was doing.


Contact John N. Mitchell at  jmitchell@philly.com. Follow on Twitter @JmitchInquirer.

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