BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
Jerry Colangelo is one of the wisest and most respected basketball names in the NBA. However, the guru does not boast a championship on his well comprised resume.
This for Philadelphia 76ers fans should be alarming.
Colangelo has been a part of the NBA game and its players in some form or fashion since 1968. He has presided over great draft picks, spectacular trades and multiple 50 win seasons.
Even with such an accomplished list of professional feats the lack of an NBA title, in a word, is peculiar.
How can a man who at worst can be described as competent, and at best described as dexterous, have been voided of the ultimate accomplishment?
Similar to when former 76ers capo Larry Brown came to Philly, Colangelo lends a modicum of credibility to an organization that is setting new standards of futility.
Not only is the NBA lifer without proper hardware, his teams have rarely competed for one. In the 44 years of his shot calling, the Suns have reached but two NBA Finals.
Phoenix would lose in both appearances.
In full disclosure when the former Suns owner left the organization, Phoenix had the fourth-highest winning percentage in NBA history. Yet, they had no NBA titles.
This brings us back to the 76ers and their decision (or forced hand, depending on whom you speak with) to bring the Illinois native to the team ownership table.
When the New York Knicks wanted an NBA title, the organization brought in a man, Phil Jackson, who has won one title as a
player. In addition to that title as a player, Jackson won a title in 11 of his 20 seasons as a Head Coach.
The Golden State Warriors had gone 18 years with just one playoff appearance, and 37 years without a trophy. Subsequently, Golden State hired renowned NBA legend and championship architect Jerry West.
West also has one championship as a player (despite playing in nine NBA Finals), however his championship jewelry as a member of a front office is gaudy. Not including the logo’s stint in Golden State, West has a total of nine rings as a front office executive.
While the jury is still out in regards to the Knicks and Jackson, West proved his worth almost instantly. The Warriors made the playoffs in just the second season after adding the former Laker.
In fact, West joined the Warriors officially in May of 2011 and the next season the Bay Area squad made it to the second round of the playoffs. In June of 2015 Golden State became NBA champions, ending the aforementioned 37 year championship drought.
It does not take a road map to navigate this correlation from championship experience to repeated championship success.
After all, winning an NBA title is ultimately about completing the process, playing your cards rather than an endless loop of assembling a better hand.
The city has already seen this movie in Rod Thorn and Larry Brown. Both are respected basketball names, and both arrived without World Champion in the title.
Thorn and Brown were active in free agency and in the draft room. Each man’s major blunder is well documented, but what remains unwritten are the little mistakes that led to the major failures.
In the case of Brown his refusal to trade Larry Hughes for Tracy McGrady, passing on Tony Parker and choosing Greg Buckner over Chauncey Billups in free agency were much more catastrophic than passing on Paul Pierce. Each step led to a much more disastrous walk.
Thorn often gets credit for selecting Michael Jordan third overall, but few remember the General Manager saying among other things “Jordan wouldn’t turn the franchise around” and “he is not an overpowering offensive force”
Overlooked in the Jordan draft was how the general manager selected track star, Carl Lewis, rather than selecting a legitimate player.
In Philadelphia, the signing of Nick Young and Kwame Brown were just precursors to the main dish of ineptitude known as Andrew Bynum.
The Bynum move would set the table for the ridiculousness we now endure on a daily basis in Philly.
Now enters Colangelo and his record of achievement, minus the ultimate accomplishment. Some Sixers’ fans have bought into this philosophy that your squad is either in the NBA Finals or an eighth seed. The consumption of such nonsense has forced a city once known for having an insatiable basketball appetite to go on a diet.
The former Suns head honcho was masterful in building a 50+ win (19 out of the 44 seasons of his tenure, Phoenix finished with 50 or more wins) roster and keeping his Suns routinely playoff contenders. Considering 76er fans have experienced two 50 win seasons in the last 26 years, they are ready to accept that.
This “success” will leave every 76er fan in a vicious cycle. If the belief is the team has to either be in the Finals or exit stage left in the first round. Then an experience of second round and in some cases conference final appearances will provide a false sense of “success”.
The Suns were perpetually at the party, but rarely danced.
Does the hiring of Mike D’Antoni, over say a Brian Shaw or Tom Thibodeau, give the appearance that Colangelo has simply changed dates, but still refuses to dance?
Are 50 win seasons and a once in a decade NBA Finals in Philly’s future?
The city is all too familiar with such feats. At this juncture fans should be demanding more out of an ownership that seems focused on acquiring assets yet not properly utilizing them (see the drafting of Dario Saric).
The hiring of Colangelo attempts to pacify those who cannot be swayed with catchy rhetoric and poor basketball logic.
Such a hiring slows down those who are very aware that the San Antonio Spurs championship rosters were filled with second round picks and extremely late first round picks. Or those who are cognizant that the Golden State Warriors and Detroit Pistons won titles with one superstar and a roster built on NBA retreads.
Current 76ers General Manager Sam Hinkie has had an opportunity to rebuild this roster with players, and instead has chosen to secure assets. The smoke has now evaporated and the habitual 50 win genius has emerged.
With this emergence the dream of a championship seems to have been suspended, for the reality of just being good.
NBA rings are passed down from one champion to future champion. The Philadelphia front office cannot possibly expect a novice to lead novices to the promise land, can they?
Yes, there have been exceptions throughout NBA history before, but the Sixers cannot prepare to be the exception. Their focus must be linear, on being the rule.
The problem is the current leaders are unfamiliar with those rules.
The 76ers were in need of someone whose vision was constructed of remembrance and true production. Instead, they chose someone whose greatest consummation is being close.
This has left Philadelphia basketball fans believing they are closer to a championship when, in fact, they are still just as far away.