The Philadelphia 76ers need sweeping changes, not a simple change in coach.
The Philadelphia 76ers are coming off their most dramatically mediocre season yet. Despite a promising foundation and sky-high expectations, the Sixers managed to get swept over by a tidal wave of incompetence — a force large enough to potentially eviscerate the organization’s entire infrastructure.
Well known is the forthcoming demise of Brett Brown, who will likely need to look elsewhere for a job. But where the Sixers must also make change — and where we, the collective viewers of Philadelphia basketball, must encourage change — is in the front office. The Sixers desperately need new management.
Philadelphia has been change-averse from the beginning. It took league intervention to force Sam Hinkie out of the GM role — bad change — and it took a national embarrassment and subtweets from the team’s superstar for ownership to reluctantly accept Bryan Colangelo’s resignation — good change.
And yet, after the most thoroughly disappointing season in recent memory, the Sixers seem destined to change once more. The sequence of failures that led Philadelphia to this place is too overt to ignore. And this time, the change is hopefully a more forceful upheaval of the Sixers’ foundations.
When Colangelo was ousted in light of Burnergate, the Sixers essentially kept everyone from his inner circle. Elton Brand was a holdover from Colangelo’s team, as were Marc Eversley, Alex Rucker, Ned Cohen, and the rest of the key decision-makers up top. The Sixers moved on from Colangelo, sure, but the change was as minimal as possible.
Now, the Colangelo holdovers have carried on in his tradition — squandering a lush tapestry of assets and leaving the Sixers in a worse place than they found them. We have basically been subjected to an extension of the Colangelo years, with no evidence of accountability or reconciliation whatsoever.
The Sixers are now at rock bottom, with no clear path to contention despite the presence of two 26-and-under superstars. It’s almost difficult to so egregiously screw up. To be handed such a favorable situation, only to turn it into one of the bleakest outlooks in the NBA.
Philadelphia went from a burgeoning dynasty to a festering wound in the span of two years. Elton Brand and the front office need to answer for that. This cannot end simply in the dismissal of Brett Brown, with all blame unfairly cast at his feet. No one is blameless, but the front office is the root of all of Philadelphia’s issues.
Above all else, the Sixers simply are not fun. The Sixers were not a pleasurable team to watch this season. The on-court product was bad. Basketball is an entertainment vessel, and while we can seriously debate the Xs and Os all we want, at some point, you just want to enjoy the team you’re watching. The Sixers’ clunky offense and stark lack of chemistry starts with the decisions made by this front office.
It’s not difficult to understand the value of shooters and playmakers in modern basketball. No NBA team has found success without them. And yet, Philadelphia subscribed to some archaic brand of oversized, underskilled bully ball — focusing on some falsely manufactured sense of physical dominance, rather than putting players on the court with enough skill to coexist.
In a forthcoming episode of The Sixer Sense Podcast, my co-host Lucas Johnson made one simple argument — that Brand, in line with most head coaches and GMs, should be given three years to prove himself. He had a solid first year, and a bad second year. Let him fix his mistakes.
Fine, by all means, a fair outlook. But my counter is simple. Brand has handed out arguably the two worst contracts in basketball, all while failing to capitalize on the only meaningfully beneficial trade of his brief tenure as general manager — the Butler acquisition.
In signing Horford and Harris, while consequently letting Butler walk, Brand has dug the Sixers into a potentially inescapable hole. He does not deserve to try and climb back out. Jim Boylen didn’t deserve two more seasons to work things out as Chicago’s head coach. This is a similar situation. Brand is too overtly negative a presence to keep around, no matter how much “respect” he has league-wide.
It is truly time to burn it down. The Sixers need to clean house, starting in the front office, permeating through the coaching staff, and then to the actual roster. Changes need to be significant. A change in course — almost any change of course — is inherently positive at this point. Philadelphia is currently stuck between a rock and a hard place, with no clear solutions. Certainly no solutions the current management group can construct.