Sam Hinkie Rumors
As time went by, though, he began to circle back. By early November he seemed more certain. “I think the world probably assumes that I’m recharging and unplugging, and there’s a little of that,” he said one evening. “This will get me in trouble if I say it, but I think I’m mostly sharpening the sword to come back.”
To date, Hinkie says he’s been approached by a couple of teams, informally, but he won’t know the market until the end of the season, when his noncompete is up. That is, if he goes back to basketball. When I first saw him in October, he seemed unsure. He needed to evaluate. Find a focus. “I’m working 30 hours or so a week, and if I’m being honest I’d rather it was 50,” he said.
A half dozen other GMs and execs—an admittedly unscientific survey—voiced largely similar sentiments. Some pointed out that while fans and media get hung up on the narrative, people in the league move on much more quickly. “Sam’s respected, and that’s the biggest thing for sure,” says one GM. Another points out that just by having confidence in his ideas, Hinkie is appealing to owners. Because, for one, how many people can do the job of NBA GM? And within that subset how many of those actually have a plan? (See the last 10 years in Sacramento.) In Philly, Hinkie became known as a cutthroat negotiator, sometimes to his detriment. But at least one rival GM thought his rep was earned partly because Hinkie’s combination of certainty and patience was intimidating. He knew what he wanted and was willing to wait for it. This is not the norm in pro sports, where, as one exec says, “To be honest, most of us are just plowing through.”
Which is why I sought him out that day at Cox Pavilion. Roughly 36 hours after my flight home from Vegas, I was set to depart for a four-week Eurotrip. There wasn’t a better person in attendance to ask for travel advice. He offered several restaurant recommendations in Italy and Spain and waxed poetic about La Sagrada Familia. The way he spoke of the sun flooding the cathedral through the church’s magnificent stained glass windows reminded me of his plan to infuse the 76ers’ new practice facility with natural sunlight. It was that worldly viewpoint that always impressed me about Hinkie during his tenure as the Philadelphia 76ers’ general manager. He had an uncanny ability to see the forest for the trees. The piece of his 13-page, leaked resignation letter that has stuck with me the most is an anecdote detailing how swingman Robert Covington ultimately arrived at the Wells Fargo Center.
On a podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports’ The Vertical, Bryan Colangelo finally confirmed what everyone had (correctly) assumed: Colangelo would have had final say. In fact, owernship’s initial reluctance to give Colangelo final say led to him turning down their first offer. “The first time that I met with David Blitzer and Josh Harris I basically told them I’m not the guy for this job,” Colangelo told Wojnarowski. “But a good month and a half passed and they called me back and said ‘We want to revisit, would you be interested?’ This time I said sure, I’ll listen, but I’m not sure things have changed. But their approach changed, and obviously that approach was something where I wouldn’t be coming in to work underneath Sam [Hinkie]. I was going to be coming in to be the lead in terms of basketball operations.”
Sam Hinkie: Writing this from a Starbucks in Palo Alto, CA. It’s 5 blocks from our house. My wife and I brought our boys here for this next chapter. The more I thought about it, the more obvious it became that a sort of gap year here was right. If we were younger, maybe we’d have backpacked around the world—I surely would have snowboarded more. But we’re parents, so we’re here planting seeds for tomorrow. Especially their tomorrow. I’ve always been focused on learning as fast as I can & figuring out how I can do things better. So a period like this felt super rare. And there may be no better place on the planet to learn right now than right here. My hope is to learn even more about how what’s happening here will impact the basketball world—it’s impacting most everything else. While I wait to see what’s next for us, I’ll teach a little (at Stanford), keep talking to the long list of people I can learn from, watch tons of basketball, and soak up all that I can. Oh, and snowboard. For sure snowboard. In the meantime, if you read anything good, send it my way.