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The Brand Is Strong: Philly’s GM Search Is Over. Now What?

The Sixers may have hired internally, but choosing former player Elton Brand over more experienced options is as bold a move as they could’ve made

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Elton Brand just got fast-tracked to the big leagues. On Tuesday, the former NBA player was hired as the Philadelphia 76ers’ new general manager, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, just over a year after he was named the general manager of the Delaware Blue Coats, the Sixers’ G League team.

Brand, a 17-year NBA veteran and two-time All-Star who had his best years with the Los Angeles Clippers, steps into the role after a summer-long mystery surrounding Philly’s top managerial position. In June, then-GM Bryan Colangelo resigned after a team investigation into a Ringer report that anonymous Twitter accounts disclosing confidential information seemed to be linked to Colangelo himself. (During the investigation, Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, admitted that it was she who had sent tweets that were critical of players and other league executives and released sensitive team details.) After Colangelo left the team, it was unclear whether the Sixers would hire internally or go after an up-and-coming GM from another team.

Through the draft and free-agency periods, the Sixers formed a brain trust for all front-office decisions, with head coach Brett Brown given executive power. Philly reportedly tried (and failed) to pry Daryl Morey away from the Rockets in July and was linked to former Cavaliers GM David Griffin. Then they went silent. At the end of August, Wojnarowski reported that Philly had been given permission to interview three candidates: the Rockets’ Gersson Rosas, the Jazz’s Justin Zanik, and the Warriors’ Larry Harris. As recently as Monday, Woj reported that the Sixers would have “additional dialogue” with Rosas and Zanik the coming week. The team evidently kept it quick: Team owners had a dinner interview Sunday with Zanik and had another one with Rosas on Monday, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Brand is an internal hire, but a bold one. He doesn’t have a front-office pedigree, or much experience outside the past year and a half serving in various capacities for the Sixers organization. As The Athletic’s Derek Bodner pointed out, Brand was signed as a player just two years and 11 days ago. To say it’s been a fast rise for Brand would be an understatement, but Philly has pushed Brand as one of its more front-facing employees from the jump. He was the team’s representative at the 2018 draft lottery. He was on the path to becoming an NBA GM eventually. The Sixers expedited the process.

The hiring of Brand is a boon for Brown, one of the longest-standing members of the Process era in Philly. On Tuesday morning in a press conference, Brown said that he wasn’t going to take on the dual coach-GM job, but that he was looking for “a partner.” According to reports, the Sixers were searching for someone willing to make “collaborative decisions instead of a GM who will have the final say.” Brown’s involvement in personnel decisions will be interesting to monitor. But he’s probably right to reject the coach-GM role; there isn’t much of a recent precedent for success there.

Brand has his work cut out for him, but it’s also one of the most envious situations in the league. The Sixers are a premier young team, and they already have the foundation to grow into an Eastern Conference powerhouse. Brand will need to manage his promising current roster, but he’ll also have the opportunity to do what his predecessors didn’t get a chance to: convince a star to come play with them.