In the big scheme of things, an NBA team not having a head coach in late May may not be a very big deal. For a team like the Philadelphia 76ers, who are watching the late rounds of the playoffs from home like the rest of us, having a coach in place now might not make them any better when they get back on the court next fall.
Still, there is a curious lack of urgency on the coaching front coming out of the South Philly front office under new general manager Sam Hinkie. The former assistant G.M. of the Rockets told reporters at his introductory news conference that he was living out of a suitcase for the time being, so maybe he has been busy with realtors and moving companies. Nearly a month into his tenure, though, the lack of any apparent movement on a number of significant offseason questions is strange.
The Sixers have yet to interview a candidate for their open coaching position, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, and it is unclear when Hinkie plans to get around to it. One might argue that there is no need to rush, since summer leagues do not even begin until July. That would make sense, if not for the fact that other teams looking for coaches have already scooped up some of the most suitable candidates. Former Sixer Jeff Hornacek was recently hired by the Suns and Mike Brown was hired back by the Cavaliers. In perhaps the most damning aspect of the Sixers’ inactivity, their own associate head coach, Michael Curry, is believed to be in the running for the Bucks’ coaching position, but has not interviewed for the Sixers’ job.
Curry’s situation seems to confirm that the Sixers’ silence is not simply about closing leaks and controlling the flow of information to the public. The Sixers really are standing by while some solid coaching candidates — including those on their own staff — get ready to begin elsewhere.
Hinkie comes from Houston, the Graceland of basketball’s analytical movement, where Daryl Morey and Kevin McHale have proved that a mathematically inclined coach is not required to effectively captain a roster constructed by a mathematically inclined front office. Lionel Hollins, the old-school coach of the new-school Grizzlies, is another example, and is expected to be at the top of Philly’s list. But if the Sixers are waiting for Hollins, whose contract with Memphis is expiring, they are taking a risk. Hollins is expected to be one of this summer’s hottest free agents, a notch below Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, and the Sixers would have tons of competition in pursuing him.
The Sixers will have a coach eventually, obviously. There is always a coach to be found for an NBA team, whether it be Phil Jackson or Mike Dunlap. Hinkie faces a lot of demands, to be fair, from whether to re-sign Andrew Bynum to who to draft in late June. But the Cavs, Suns and Hawks had their own issues and they were able to walk and chew gum at the same time.
Philadelphia is begging for a sports team to care about. The Phillies are sputtering toward the end of an era. The Flyers have become the L.A. Kings’ feeder program. The Eagles are a circus. With a few smart moves, the Sixers could be next year’s Warriors or Rockets. In order to make smart moves, however, the Sixers actually need to make some moves. Right now, “movement” is the opposite of how anyone would describe what is happening there.
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