Bryan Colangelo will forever be a punch line in Philadelphia, and nothing more. As a devout Sam Hinkie supporter that gives me great solace.
While I feel bad for Colangelo — whose career was just ended by the Twitter fingers of his wife — I won’t miss him. Colangelo had no business being the GM of this team, and his presence in the front office only left fans with the anxiety that he would inevitably screw up the foundation laid by his predecessor. While I would have bet money back in 2016 that his poor decision-making would cost him his job before the team wins a championship, I never imagined anything like this.
Here are five potential candidates to fill his role:
The unique thing about this GM search is that the Sixers aren’t in a position to drastically alter their course at this point in the Process. Under normal circumstances, hiring a new GM means setting a new vision for your organization. But after winning 50+ games for the first time since 2001 and winning a playoff series for the first time since 2012, there’s an argument to be made that bringing in a new voice doesn’t make much sense.
The most common course of action for a team in this position is to promote from within—much like the Cavaliers did when, in spite of their success, they parted ways with former GM David Griffin (more on him later).
If ownership decides to take a similar path then the most obvious option is Marc Eversley—currently the team’s Vice President of Player Personnel. Eversley has been linked to GM openings in the past, and he’s already interviewed for the Hornet’s job this offseason (he lost out to Mitch Kupchak).
He was brought on board by Colangelo in 2016 after stints with Washington and Toronto (also under Colangelo) and has made himself an essential piece of this front office. He’s a well-regarded talent evaluator and reportedly has a solid relationship with Brett Brown. In the name of continuity, I expect him to be an early favorite for the job.
If there’s another candidate who satisfies the team’s potential desire for continuity its Williams. Williams time with the Sixers dates back to the Hinkie days and extends through 2017 when Colangelo was at the helm. Some people within the organization might view that as a positive, as he represents two regimes that are often at odds ideologically.
His main experience comes from being the GM of the team’s G-league affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, and he has since bolstered his resume by joining the Sacramento Kings as Assistant GM prior to last season. His resume isn’t as impressive as Eversley’s, but the team might view him as more of a “Sixers guy” because he endured the totality of the Process.
One other advantage that Williams has over Eversley (and both Hinkie and Colangelo for that matter) is that he actually played the game professionally. While that’s a small detail, it’s one that shouldn’t be ignored from the standpoint of cultivating rapport with free agents and current players.
It’s unlikely that the team brings back Williams, but they should at least give him a hard look.
This may be a head turner for some, but Billups was under serious consideration to replace Griffin as the Cavs GM before he removed himself from consideration and they ultimately decided to retain their interim, Kolby Altman.
Billups obviously doesn’t have front office experience, as he currently works as an analyst for ESPN. But he has expressed a serious desire to lead a franchise, and is highly regarded as both a basketball mind and a professional in the industry. Far and away his biggest asset is his relationship with many of the leagues top players, which is something that should intrigue ownership given the team’s desire to add another superstar.
Much like Williams, his experience playing the game has value, but, unlike Williams, Billups has the experience of leading a team to a championship (‘04 Pistons). For what it’s worth, he learned under the tutelage of Larry Brown—the head coach of the most recent Sixer team to reach the NBA Finals.
Billups is waiting for the right situation to present itself, and it’s hard to imagine a job much better than this one coming around any time soon. Billups is the only option that I can see the team hiring who isn’t either already in the organization or who has previous GM experience. Otherwise, it’s safe to say the team’s hire will satisfy one of those two criteria.
Speaking of the ’04 Pistons, Dumars was the team’s GM/President of Basketball Operations for that championship run and is considered the architect of a team that is highly regarded for its success despite lacking a bona fide superstar.
Dumars held the position from 2000-2014 and isn’t short on experience as an executive. Beyond that, the championship pedigree that Billups earned as a player obviously extends to Dumars, who, while he wasn’t the leader of those Bad Boy Piston teams, was without a doubt an integral member—even winning the Finals MVP award in 1989. (The team repeated in ’89 & ’90)
Dumars hasn’t held another official job in the front office since his time in Detroit, but his name has been floated for various GM openings in recent years. His status as both a championship player and championship executive to go along with his impeccable reputation around the league makes him the most qualified candidate on this list.
You just know Griffin will be discussed as a potential candidate because of his history with LeBron James (who will strongly consider Philadelphia in free agency) but, in reality, I don’t think it’s reasonable to suggest that LeBron’s decision will be affected by such a move—in fact, it won’t even move the needle.
Part of the reason LeBron was “upset” over the Cavs split with Griffin was because he viewed him as someone that he could control. Another reason was because he felt disrespected that he wasn’t “in the loop” on the decision. Don’t misconstrue that for their relationship having any sort of value here; there’s a slew of executives who could fill this job if the only criteria is a willingness to be LeBron’s puppet.
Granted, Griffin does have actual experience as a GM in this league, and if the team does decide to go with an outside hire it almost certainly will be someone with previous experience to rely on.