State of the 76ers | Amidst Diligent Search, Team Seeks GM With 'Right' Criteria

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

About halfway through the 76ers’ stint in Las Vegas during the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League, team managing partner Josh Harris and head coach Brett Brown, also currently acting as the Sixers’ head of basketball operations, conducted a joint roundtable media availability with a group of reporters.

Through our ‘State of the 76ers’ series, we’ll highlight several of the major themes that emerged from the session. Here’s our latest installment:

In a business that can be as fast-paced as professional basketball, the 76ers are taking a slow, methodical approach to finding a new general manager.

Going on nearly two months now, the highest box atop the franchise’s basketball operations org chart has been vacant.

In the interim, Brett Brown has filled the position, the rising sixth-year head coach running point on major, roster-altering ventures like prospect evaluations, free agency, and trade-making.

Given the results - a widely praised draft night haul, the retention of key talent, and the addition of versatile veterans - the Sixers seem to feel comfortable moving at their own pace while looking for Brown’s full-time replacement.

“We really had to focus,” Managing Partner Josh Harris said earlier this month at summer league while discussing the off-season. “The staff in place, everyone pulled together, and we just moved forward. I don’t think we really missed a beat.”

For that, Harris not only praised Brown, but spread credit around to other influential internal decision-makers as well.

Marc Eversley (Vice President, Player Personnel); Ned Cohen (Vice President, Basketball Operations & Chief of Staff); Alex Rucker (Vice President, Analytics & Strategy); and Elton Brand (General Manager, Delaware Blue Coats) have all assumed prominent roles in formulating a collaborative, productive blueprint for the front office. 

“We really executed on what we said and what we’ve been talking about,” said Harris. “It was just a lot of extra work for everyone, to be honest with you, particularly [Brown], but it worked well.”

For as pleased as Harris has been with the Sixers’ off-season yields, he and Brown alike acknowledged that at some point down the road, there will likely need to be a permanent occupant of the seat Brown has been keeping warm.

On the heels of a promising campaign that featured a massive 24-win improvement, historic season-ending winning streak, and a first-round playoff  series victory, Harris is well aware of the swiftly-evolving perceptions surrounding the Sixers.

“I think this is - if not the most - one of the most attractive [general manager] jobs in the NBA. I feel like we’ll have a line outside the door.”

In the same breath, Harris indicated that when it comes to vetting potential candidates, patience will prevail. That’s because in Harris’ view, no factor in the Sixers’ GM search supersedes finding “the right person” for the gig.

“I think it’s going to take a while,” he said. “We really need to find the right person. We’ve developed a special culture.”

One that revolves heavily around intellectual consensus-building, and communication.

“It’s going to take something quite unique to come into our infrastructure,” said Brown, who speaks directly with Harris and other members of the Sixers’ ownership group regularly throughout the season and off-season. “We really have smart people who challenge each other. You’ve got to back up what you think, and you’ve got to justify what you say. It’s intellectual warfare. It’s really impressive.”

It’s also an environment that might not be for everybody, Harris noted.

The Sixers know the criteria they’ve set for their next general manager is selective, and goes way beyond the basics of talent evaluation.

Said Brown, “Who’s going to be the GM who’s...egoless, doesn’t need to take credit, allows people to continue to do their job, can lead, shows tremendous poise and seniority, and can deal with prospective free agents and those types of things? That’s a special person.”

Harris would prefer to bring in a general manager with past experience and a track record, but then added that doing so would be a “plus,” not an essential.

Also within the realm of possibilities could be turning to an option already on staff.  

“All of this is going to be a mosaic, and you’re going to have to feel your way to the best answer,” Harris said. “At the end of the day, you win with the best people on your team, and so for me it’s going to start with who’s got the most talent, and who fits the best. It’s going to be a blend of those.”

“You ask is it realistic?,” said Brown. “It is, but on our terms. We get what we need, what we want, and more importantly, what we have.”

Hence, the need, and desire, for diligence.

“I’m confident,” Harris said, “that our program is exciting enough and we have enough to offer that we will find a great person.”