Sam Hinkie Rumors
After seeing the turnaround in Philadelphia, why wouldn’t a team like Charlotte look at Sam Hinkie this offseason when searching for a new GM? — Nolan Ragogna STEIN: You get zero argument from me. Hinkie would be the first to admit that there were misses with the Sixers as well as hits during his tenure, but the Michael Jordan-owned Hornets are exactly the sort of trapped-in-mediocrity franchise that could badly use some of Hinkie’s out-of-the-box thinking as well as his conviction when it comes to plotting a path for the franchise and sticking to it. The sense I get is that Hinkie is going to be very selective before taking another job in this league, but he made it clear in this excellent piece by The Ringer’s John Gonzalez that he certainly wants to return in the right circumstances. I really hope he gets the chance because the N.B.A. is a lot more interesting when Sam Hinkie is in it.
It’s precisely that kind of talk that makes it hard for me to imagine him never working in the NBA again. How can someone who loves basketball that much, who highlights the community/family aspect as the very thing that “makes sports not ephemeral” and “makes it matter,” give up his dream to go invest in someone else’s? I asked him to explain it to me so many times that I lost track. Then I called him late last week to ask one more time. I expected him to pause and think about it. He didn’t. “I feel incredibly blessed already,” he replied. “I made a bunch of decisions to try to build something bigger than myself, and I knew that had lots of downside risk associated with it.” He made it sound like some of us might be more broken up about him staying gone for good than he would. “I got comfortable with that trade-off a long time ago.”
You’ll get no argument there from Hinkie. As he said during one of the Sloan panels, the Sixers had some hits but also some misses during his administration and “to lionize the opposite is silly.” Maybe that’s why he never tried too hard to erase that caricature—because he never saw his reflection in the image. “He’s very adept in those ways,” Ben Falk said over a breakfast that bled into lunch in Boston the day before SSAC convened. The Sixers former vice president of basketball strategy, who now runs CleaningTheGlass.com, said Hinkie can be “very charming and public facing” and has the ability to “turn that side on.” Which is why people still wonder why he didn’t toss a few jocular quotes over his shoulder to hold off the hounds. “From a pure value standpoint, he didn’t feel like it made sense to be out there trying to do something that was largely self-serving and not helpful to the organization.”
During a conversation between Hinkie, some conference attendees, and Sachin Gupta—the Sixers’ former vice president of basketball operations, who now serves as a special adviser to the Rockets—the discussion pivoted to maybe the funniest panel at Sloan: “Nuts and Bolts of Acquiring a Franchise.” Everyone laughed and wondered how many billionaires could have possibly flown in for the exercise, which turned the conversation toward oddball professional soccer team owners. “You’re dealing with the guys who came out of the top of the PEZ dispenser,” Hinkie said, “which by definition means they’re the most eager because they’ve just won the auction.” And there, he paused for some role-playing and pretended to be one of those fortunate, select PEZ. “If a team is worth $1 billion, let’s bid $1.1. Screw it, $1.5! It’ll be fun!”
Hinkie, himself, was a superstar at the 3,500-person conference, which began back in 2006. He was on two panels, and both times, the crowd offered applause. Perhaps the only person all weekend who received a warmer greeting was President Barack Obama, who spoke on Friday.
During the panel, Pagliuca voiced his concerns with The Process. Hinkie clearly did not want to hijack the discussion to defend himself, but he got support from Frank and Griffin and tried to offer some insight into his philosophy. “I think people often think everything we were doing was about the draft,” Hinkie said. “And the draft is critically important for sure, but it’s not [everything]. I used to work at a company called Bain & Company and briefly at a place called Bain Capital in one of their side offices. And back then, everyone would talk about, ‘What are the two or three levers? Pull like hell on those.’ And in this case, in Philadelphia, that was a lot of what we were trying to do was on all three of those.
Still, sources both close to Hinkie and around the league said owners and executives routinely reach out to him for counsel. Several basketball operations vice presidents and owners said they would hire him, but they wouldn’t put him in charge. Others believe Hinkie and The Process weren’t given a full trial, and that he didn’t do anything wrong as much as the league turned on him.