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Sixers part ways with Bryan Colangelo

By Brandon Apter, Sports Talk Philly Staff

After a over week of whirlwind drama and rumors, the end is now here for Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball Operations and general manager Bryan Colangelo. On Thursday just before noon, the organization announced that it would be moving forward without Colangelo. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski was the first on the story. Here's the Sixers official statement from managing partner Josh Harris:

The Philadelphia 76ers organization has accepted the resignation of President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo, effective immediately.

We appreciate Bryan’s many contributions during his time leading our basketball operations and thank him for the work he did in positioning the team for long-term success. An independent investigation by New York-based law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP was conducted into certain anonymous social media accounts that posted information concerning the club, personnel, and related topics.

It has become clear Bryan’s relationship with our team and his ability to lead the 76ers moving forward has been compromised. Recognizing the detrimental impact this matter had on the organization, Colangelo offered his resignation. We find the situation to be disappointing for our entire organization. We are determined to continue the tremendous progress we have made over the last two seasons in our quest to win an NBA Championship.

As such, we have appointed head coach Brett Brown to oversee basketball operations on an interim basis to lead our efforts in this important offseason. He will work closely with the rest of our talented basketball operations department in preparing for the upcoming NBA Draft and thereafter until a new General Manager is found. The search for a new General Manager will commence immediately.

Here's Bryan Colangelo's statement following his resignation, disputing the allegations that his conduct was in any way reckless (see law firm release further down:

While the Sixers search for their next president of basketball operations, Wojnarowski reports that Brett Brown will oversee things on an interim basis. This could bode very well for the team in free agency since Brown has a spectacular relationships with executives, coaches and players around the NBA.

Since the surfacing of a story by Ben Detrick at The Ringer, Colangelo was under fire for being responsible for five burner accounts on Twitter. These accounts shared information that was detrimental to the team, such as confidential information regarding medical history and criticism of current and past 76ers players, coaches and staff. The firing comes as no surprise to many, as it seemed like this would be near impossible to try and make a comeback from.

The Sixers hired an outside law firm out of New York to investigate the matter and they interviewed both Colangelo and his wife Barbara Bottini for several hours on Sunday and Monday before the ownership group met on Tuesday to discuss whether the internal probe's findings were enough to warrant firing Colangelo. Obviously, they believed the findings were enough or that the damage that had been done was too damning to continue with him, especially with the draft and free agency looming. Here's the official statement from the firm's investigation, with their findings indicating that Colangelo's wife was the one behind the accounts and content.

New York, June 7, 2018 – Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP was engaged by the ownership of the Philadelphia 76ers to conduct an investigation of issues arising from the publication of an article on May 29 identifying certain anonymous Twitter accounts that posted information concerning the club, its personnel and related topics. The article reported that the Twitter accounts may be connected in some way to Bryan Colangelo, the club’s President of Basketball Operations.

We commenced our investigation on May 30 and it substantially concluded on June 5. With the assistance of expert forensic consultants, we collected extensive electronic evidence consisting of multiple electronic devices (iPhones, iPads and other computer devices from multiple sources); conducted an extensive review of the contents of those devices, including text messages and other data; accessed numerous email accounts and reviewed the contents of those accounts; examined the account history of certain of the Twitter accounts; conducted witness interviews and undertook additional investigative tasks.

The investigation was led by Brad S. Karp, the Chairman of Paul, Weiss, Lorin L. Reisner, a Paul, Weiss senior partner and former Chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and Richard C. Tarlowe, a Paul, Weiss partner and former Chief of the Cybercrime Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

The account names of the Twitter accounts under investigation are: Eric jr, Still Balling, Enoughunkownsources, and HonestAbe.

We investigated the following issues, among others: (1) who was responsible for establishing the Twitter accounts or posting messages on those accounts; (2) whether Mr. Colangelo was aware of the Twitter accounts before May 22, when there was a press inquiry concerning one of the subject accounts; and (3) whether Mr. Colangelo was the source of any sensitive, non-public information concerning the 76ers or its personnel communicated on the Twitter accounts.

As a result of our investigation, we do not believe that Mr. Colangelo established the Twitter accounts or posted content on those accounts. The evidence supports the conclusion that Ms. Barbara Bottini, Mr. Colangelo’s wife, established the Twitter accounts and posted content on those accounts. When interviewed, Ms. Bottini admitted establishing and operating the accounts. Forensic evidence corroborates her admissions.

We cannot conclude that Mr. Colangelo was aware of the Twitter accounts prior to the May 22 press inquiry. Mr. Colangelo denies any such awareness and we have not observed any forensic evidence establishing that he had knowledge of the Twitter accounts prior to that date. We note, however, that our investigation was limited and impeded by certain actions taken by Ms. Bottini, including her decision to delete the contents of her iPhone by executing a factory reset of the device prior to surrendering it for forensic review.

Our investigation revealed substantial evidence that Mr. Colangelo was the source of sensitive, non-public, club-related information contained in certain posts to the Twitter accounts. 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.

With the news of the Sixers parting ways with Colangelo, it shocked many how long it took to make the decision. According to PhillyVoice, one of the hold-ups was Bryan's father, Jerry, who reportedly threatened to damage team relationships if Bryan was fired. 

More than one person who spoke to PhillyVoice on the condition of anonymity suggested Jerry Colangelo tried to intervene on Bryan's behalf, threatening to interfere with club relationships around the league. 

It's somewhat of a coincidence that we have reached this point. Just a few short years ago, the NBA and Adam Silver more or less forced the Colangelo's into the Sixers organization due to Sam Hinkie's heralded Process that netted Philadelphia numerous lottery picks and future cap flexibility. Now, years later, Colangelo was the center of one of the most unusual stories in NBA history. Sports Talk Philly's Jesse Larch recently penned a piece on how Silver is accountable for the Colangelo debacle.

During Bryan Colangelo's introductory press conference, he preached the importance of being transparent and forward with the media and Sixers fans, but as time went along, that became the opposite of what happened. Sam Hinkie was rarely in the spotlight either, but we all knew what the plan was behind the scenes, so there wasn't necessarily a need for explanation as much as there has been with Bryan Colangelo.

The handling of the Sixers center logjam was a mess, and it ended in the organization getting pretty bad deals for Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Although neither player really panned out and Justin Anderson seems to be more valuable than both, there was no clear pathway for which one was the best option to back up the oft-injured Joel Embiid. Playing them together didn't work, and in the end, both players went elsewhere for less than they were worth. 

While the center logjam was a nightmare for the Sixers, the Markelle Fultz situation was an extremely unique one and Bryan Colangelo was anything but transparent and forward during the entirety of the issue. Whether it was a shoulder issue, mental issue or a little of both, each update on Fultz was more and more vague with little explanation ever given about how the No. 1 pick missed 64 games. It's one thing not being transparent, but the way Colangelo spoke to the media in general about the subject sounded like he was annoyed even having to talk about it. The guy is the top pick in the draft and you trade a future first rounder in order to be able to pick him and handle the injury this way? If there was any chance of Colangelo digging himself out of a hole with Sixers fans, it stopped here. 

Through Colangelo's missteps, this past season, his approval rating didn't seem too bad after he stood pat at the trade deadline only to add veterans Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova to the team, thus boosting the bench. As for trading up for Fultz in the first place, let's not forget how talented Markelle was in college and he was the consensus No. 1 pick by many. Jayson Tatum's strong rookie year makes it harder to swallow, but what's done is done.

All in all, Colangelo's tenure in Philadelphia was really something that a lot of fans never wanted. They wanted Sam Hinkie to have the opportunity to live out The Process and see his plan come to fruition. Instead, the Colangelo's were put into the Sixers laps and the rest is history. 

With two weeks until the draft and just over three weeks until to free agency, the Sixers have Brett Brown running things for now, but they'll have to conduct an efficient, thorough search in a short amount of time as we head into one of the most important offseason's in recent Philadelphia basketball history.

 

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