Trust the Brand: Give New Sixers GM Time


When the Sixers named Elton Brand as their new General Manager late Tuesday, there was a feeling that someone had unknowingly leaked Cheez Whiz out of a cheesesteak. Bad move.

The team had concluded their 104-day search for a GM by settling on a guy two years removed from logging minutes for the Sixers on the court. After a swirl of reports linking them to more experienced candidates like Houston’s Gersson Rosas, Utah’s Justin Zanik and Golden State’s Larry Harris, this was the best they could do?

At first, it seemed insane. Then, one trusting tweet (kind of) calmed the masses.

With Joel Embiid’s stamp of approval, the Sixers will begin training camp Friday at their practice facility in Camden, NJ. The hectic weekend should provide much-needed answers. In the meantime, Brand’s hire has incited all kinds of reactions, from shocking disbelief to optimistic approval to downright rejection.

Think about it objectively, for a second. The Sixers have not-so-secretly been grooming Brand for this job since he joined the front office as Player Development Consultant in 2016. At the time, they praised his “leadership and character” and said he’d be working with players in “every facet of their on- and off-court development,” according to a press release. One year later, Brand was installed as GM of their G-League squad, the Delaware 87ers. The writing was on the wall, then spray-painted in indelible marker all over the Wells Fargo Center.

“The transition from a terrific playing career to team management was something that we have been talking about for some time and this opportunity is both timely and appropriate.” then-GM Bryan Colangelo said of Brand in August 2017.

Obviously, Brand was fast-tracked after Colangelo’s scandal involving social media burner accounts. The move will be dissected, synthesized, and dissected over and over again. But the reality is this promotion really isn’t that surprising. Brand knows how to deal with NBA egos after having one for 17 seasons, making him expertly qualified to negotiate contracts and squash beefs.

During his second stint with the Sixers, a 36-year-old Brand took on the fatherly role of mentor for guys like Embiid. Coach Brett Brown was crystal clear on why they brought him back, saying he was there to provide veteran leadership. One year later, Brand is the one calling the shots for a roster he knows all too well. Remember, he was the Sixers’ representative to attend the NBA Draft Lottery.

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Embiid appears to be fully on board, so maybe all Sixers fans should be. Brand’s experience is priceless and he shares a common trait among many other successful NBA GM’s. Eleven of the 29 GM’s in the NBA have spent time playing at the pro level, whether it’s in the NBA or overseas in Europe. (Detroit is currently without a GM). Factor in college experience and that number increases to 21, meaning the GM position is very much tied to what you learned on the court.

In terms of playoff teams, only four of the 16 returning contenders employed GM’s with absolutely no playing experience – whether it be in college or pros — on their collective resumes. And six of those 16 playoff squads had GM’s with legitimate NBA playing experience, including the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference: Toronto, Boston and Philadelphia.

Yes, we know. For every Danny Ainge and Mitch Kupchak, there is a Daryl Morey and Sam Hinkie (insert heart emoji here). Still, it is refreshing to hear that Brand’s on-court experiences should help him understand the wants and needs of this young Sixers’ roster. Ideally, Brand’s all-encompassing pedigree can help the franchise win their first title since 1983. And a good start would be calling Jimmy Butler’s agent.

Here is a quick rundown of the current GM’s with playing experience, either at the professional or collegiate level. Brand spent 17 seasons in the NBA.

NBA or Europe

Danny Ainge, Boston

Sean Marks, Brooklyn

Mitch Kupchak, Charlotte

Arturas Karnisovas, Denver

Chad Buchanan, Indiana

Michael Winger, LA Clippers

Dell Demps, New Orleans

Elton Brand, Philadelphia

Vlade Divac, Sacramento

Masai Ujiri, Toronto

Ernie Grunfeld, Washington


Dennis Lindsey, Utah

R.C. Buford, San Antonio

Sam Presti, Oklahoma City

Steve Mills, New York

Jon Horst, Milwaukee

Rob Pelinka, LA Lakers

Bob Myers, Golden State

Donnie Nelson, Dallas

Koby Altman, Cleveland

Travis Schlenk, Atlanta




About Mike Greger

Michael Greger grew up the son of an Eagles season-ticket holder before serving as Sports Editor at Metro Philadelphia where he covered the Eagles, Sixers, Phillies and Flyers. He co-edits the popular Philadelphia sports blog, PhillySportsJabronis.com, and regularly freelances for several local publications, including Billy Penn, Philadelphia Weekly and NBC Sports Philadelphia. He is well respected in local and online sports circles due to his extensive work navigating the pulse of the Philly sports fan. His favorite Sixer of all-time is Scott Brooks – as a player, not a coach – and he isn’t ashamed to admit that he cried during Allen Iverson’s retirement ceremony. Trust the Process.

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