Bringing Complete Package to Role, Brand "Perfect" Choice for GM
He was smooth, comfortable, and even offered a few wisecracks. He spoke confidently, with conviction.
He drove his introductory press conference much more like a “new school Tesla,” to borrow a phrase from 76ers Managing Partner Josh Harris, than...yes, an “old school Chevy.”
Elton Brand looked and sounded everybit the part Thursday, when Harris officially named the two-time All-Star the 15th general manager in franchise history.
The announcement brought to an end a selective, summer-long search, and capped off Brand’s rapid ascent to becoming the Sixers’ top-ranking basketball executive.
Citing intelligence, work ethic, credibility, and reliability, Harris called Brand the “perfect general manager for today’s NBA.”
“It’s a player’s league, and Elton is universally respected,” Harris said. “He has a remarkable understanding of the game, knows how players feel and react, and knows what’s important to them. He will be incredible at not only helping our young core continue to develop, but also in recruiting other players to our program.”
“I believe this team has an incredibly bright future, I’m so excited to be here,” Brand said during his joint media session with Harris. “Josh and [co-Managing Partner] David [Blitzer] were clear with me that the goal is to bring a championship to the fans of Philadelphia. I’m committed to doing everything in power to lead the team to that goal.”
It was less than two years ago that Brand, after spending training camp with the Sixers, called it a career, for good.
Now, here he is, the Sixers’ new GM.
“When I loosely retired, I was offered the assistant GM job over four years ago with another team,” said Brand, who passed on the opportunity. “It was my goal to be prepared for this moment ever since.”
His drive and focus certainly paid off.
Just a few months following his retirement, Brand wasted little time dipping his toes into the front office waters, returning to the Sixers as a player development consultant.
Less than a year later, the former no. 1 pick and Rookie of the Year was promoted to general manager of the Delaware Blue Coats, the Sixers’ NBA G League affiliate. This past August, the title of Vice President of Basketball Operations was put on his plate.
In September, when the chance to meet with ownership about the Sixers’ general manager vacancy surfaced, Brand went all in.
“That’s when I said, ‘There’s a chance for me to lead, and step up.’”
Even before his playing days ended, Brand had thought about what it would be like to run a team.
In his latter seasons in the league, he began studying and absorbing as much information as he could about the business of basketball. He talked to people, including owners, who he credited Thursday for granting him “unparalleled access behind the scenes.”
The consultant position with the Sixers two years ago was enough to convince Brand that personnel was what he wanted to do.
“I said ‘Ok, I can also work basketball.’ It was intriguing putting a team together, being a part of something special, and what we have here with Coach Brett Brown, the talented players we have here, this organization, it was a no-brainer for me.”
After accounting for everything that Brand brought to the table, Harris and his fellow owners agreed that the 17-year power forward was the clear choice.
“Elton was the best individual for the job, across the board,” said Harris. “Everyone is aware of Elton’s credentials as a player, and how many years he’s spent in the NBA, but what we learned through the process of interviewing, was that he had a great vision for how we could win a championship. He is a great leader, is extremely well thought-of internally, and understands our culture, and what we’re trying to do.”
As well Brand should. He wore Sixers red, white, and blue from 2008 through 2012, his last season being the first that Harris owned the team.
Brand later came out of retirement to rejoin the Sixers in the middle of the 2015-2016 campaign, playing what amounted to be his final 17 games ever for the organization.
Regardless of where his basketball life has taken him - from Peekskill, NY to Duke University, all the way to the NBA and now the Sixers’ GM chair - Brand has conducted himself with class, and high-character. His reputation and connections speak for themselves.
That Brand has a strong track record as an effective relationship-builder - both on and off the court - was part of his package that appealed most to Harris. Just look at the support he received at Thursday’s press conference from staffers, coaches, and players.
And in Brand’s new role, few relationships figure to be more important than the one he’s nurtured with Brett Brown.
“It’s already a close partnership, it’s a unique partnership,” Brand said of the dynamic that exists between himself and Brown, who was standing a few feet away from where Brand sat on stage for Thursday’s press conference. “He’s an advocate for me. [We’re] in a partnership to be aligned and unified to win a championship.”
Prior to Brand’s appointment, Brown had been overseeing basketball operations for the Sixers on an temporary basis, with Brand, Assistant General Manager Ned Cohen, Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Marc Eversley, and Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Alex Rucker all teaming up to handle day-to-day affairs.
Moving forward, Brand intends to continue leaning on his colleagues’ expertise.
“We have a great staff in place, I’m not by myself in this,” said Brand. “They’re top in the verticals, in my opinion, from analytics, to CBA. Whatever it is, I think we’re top class.”
In respect to decision-making, it sounds like Brand will adopt a blended approach. He considers analytics to be a valuable tool, but also plans to listen to his gut, and factor in the “human side” of the sport.
Transparency and honesty are important to Brand, who pledged to lead with integrity as the Sixers’ general manager.
But such has always been the 39-year old’s way, and ultimately proved to be a decisive reason why he earned the authority he was given on Thursday.