Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations and general manager Bryan Colangelo resigned Thursday, more than a week after The Ringer released a report raising questions about possible connections between Colangelo and Twitter accounts that revealed sensitive information about the team and questioned the behavior and performance of several players.
Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, admitted to establishing and operating the accounts, though Colangelo was deemed the source of her information, according to a statement describing the findings of the investigation by law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP in the wake of The Ringer’s report. The investigation showed forensic evidence that supports Bottini’s admissions, according to the statement, but it could not conclude whether Colangelo knew of the accounts before “the May 22 press inquiry.” The investigation was limited, the statement says, because Bottini deleted the contents of her iPhone before handing it over to investigators.
“We believe that Mr. Colangelo was careless and in some instances reckless in failing to properly safeguard sensitive, non-public, club-related information in communications with individuals outside the 76ers organization,” the statement read.
Colangelo issued a statement Thursday, calling his wife’s actions “a seriously misguided effort to publicly defend and support me.”
“I vigorously dispute the allegation that my conduct was in any way reckless,” Colagenlo wrote. “At no point did I ever purposefully or directly share any sensitive, non-public, club-related information with [Bottini].”
Sixers owners are expected to have a news conference Thursday. Head coach Brett Brown will oversee the Sixers’ basketball operations on an interim basis. The team said it will search for a new GM “immediately.”
“Recognizing the detrimental impact this matter had on the organization, Colangelo offered his resignation,” owner Josh Harris said in a statement.
ESPN reported last Thursday night that Sixers ownership showed “little, if any, inclination to separate Colangelo’s culpability in the matter should a family member or close associate be proven responsible for the postings.” Per ESPN, ownership also feared that the organization’s credibility would be damaged ahead of a critical summer when the team is expected to recruit marquee free agents like LeBron James and Paul George, should they opt out of their current deals. Asked last weekend if he’d seen a tweet made by Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, James joked, “It was his account though, right?”
As detailed in The Ringer’s report, an anonymous tipster pointed out evidence connecting Colangelo to five Twitter accounts, four of which were critical of current and former Sixers players, former team president and general manager Sam Hinkie, and Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri. Tweets from the accounts claimed that a 2017 trade involving former Philly center Jahlil Okafor was derailed because Okafor failed a physical, and that coach Brett Brown wanted Nerlens Noel gone because the former Sixers big man was bad for the locker room. Other tweets blamed Markelle Fultz’s shooting woes this season on the no. 1 draft pick and Keith Williams, a family friend and trainer, and called Joel Embiid a “toddler,” among other things. More than one tweet also defended the size of Colangelo’s shirt collar.
The Ringer asked the Sixers about two of the accounts more than two weeks ago, and the team confirmed that one of them, @phila1234567, was Colangelo’s. Soon after, the three others switched from public to private. In a follow-up statement provided to The Ringer on May 29, Colangelo denied familiarity with any account other than @phila1234567, and said he hadn’t posted anything on social media “whatsoever.”
The Sixers announced May 30 that they were launching an investigation into the issues raised by The Ringer’s report. Meanwhile, several people named in the tweets spoke out, none more vocal than Embiid. The Sixers’ All-Star center fired off several tweets the evening of May 29, and liked several of the tweets made by one account in question that took aim at his behavior. By the end of the night, Embiid tweeted, “Fun night on Twitter lmao.. All jokes asides I don’t believe the story. That would just be insane.” ESPN reported shortly after that Colangelo reached out to individuals mentioned by the various accounts, “insisting that he isn’t responsible for those tweets.”
ESPN reported Monday that Colangelo surrendered his phones and electronic devices to Paul/Weiss as part of the team’s investigation.
Colangelo’s hiring in April 2016 precipitated the exit of Hinkie, who served as Sixers president of basketball operations and general manager for nearly three years. Hinkie’s aggressive rebuild of the franchise turned him into a lightning rod for fans, agents, and league personnel. Jerry Colangelo, Bryan’s father, was named Sixers chairman of basketball operations in December 2015, in the midst of the team’s third straight losing season under Hinkie’s “Process.”
In Bryan Colangelo’s two-plus years in Philadelphia, the Sixers drafted Ben Simmons first overall, traded up the following year to draft Markelle Fultz first overall, won 52 games this regular season (the franchise’s most in nearly two decades), and earned a first-round playoff series victory against the Miami Heat. But Hinkie loomed over all of it, with “trust the Process” chants often ringing out throughout Wells Fargo Center, and Embiid giving himself the nickname “The Process.”