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Column: Josh Harris, The Best Owners The Sixers Could Have

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(credit: Ed Benkin/KYW)

(credit: Ed Benkin/KYW)

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By Vincent Quinn

With the Clippers’ $2 billion price tag, living in the headlines, I can’t help but think of the Sixers and owner Josh Harris. After buying the New Jersey Devils and declaring the Sixers’ 19-63 season a “huge success” he’s become a very unpopular figure in town.

But he shouldn’t be.

Harris is the best owner that the Sixers could ask for. And that should scare the hell out of you.

Why, exactly? It all starts with Harris’ background.

As a student Harris graduated from the Wharton business school with a degree in economics followed by an MBA at Harvard. in 1990 he co-founded Apollo Management L.P.—a private equity firm—with two partners and is now worth $3 billion dollars according for Forbes. In other words, Harris is an absolute stud at transforming failing businesses into cash. Conveniently, the Sixers have the look and feel of a Cinderella.

The Sixers had gone through an era of abuse and neglect under Ed Snider. While the Flyers flirted with championships the Sixers were like a Tyler Perry movie starring Tony DiLeo as every single role. The team was an outcast in their own home, which resulted in a once-vibrant basketball city being lulled to sleep. Harris and his partners then bought the team for $280 million in 2011 and the rebuilding process began.

Now what’s important is that while he may not have basketball sense, Harris’ business sense suggests that success in the market place is tied to success on the court. As a result, he’s taking the steps to build a perennially contending team.

For starters, Harris hired good decision makers to oversee the basketball operations.

After cleaning house in 2013, Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown have completely changed the team culture. A team once seemingly directionless, the Sixers are looking for the long-haul and losing their way to success. The front office has stockpiled draft picks and young talent, assembled a staff of player development coaches, and embraced the new wave of advanced statistics in hopes of building a powerhouse. In addition, they’ve been honest about their intentions and expectations the whole time. They’re a refreshing and exciting group and Harris has stayed out of the way.

He’s also providing these decision makers with the tools to become the best team possible.
One move was adding the Delaware 87ers—the Sixers NBA Development League affiliate. It’s important to note that not all NBA teams have this luxury either. In fact, out of 30 NBA teams only 14 had their own D-League affiliate this year. Therefore, while the Sixers are poking and prodding prospects at PCOM prior to the draft, they will have extra scouting information on players of interest. It’s a nice boost for the organization. Soon they’ll conducting the workouts from their own practice facility too—providing another boost.

So why should Sixers fans be frightened?

Because in a few years both the team and the franchise will be at a peak point in value. If all goes well the practice facility will have been built, the young core will be starting its prime years of contention, and the fans will have returned to cheer them on. Since Harris can’t build a new stadium for the Sixers, he’ll have done all he can to revive the team and sell with Sterling’s $2 billion in mind.

As a fan, it’s concerning to think of the Sixers with different ownership after Harris has rejuvenated the franchise. Unfortunately, it’s all part of the business.

Vincent Quinn is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly, co-founder of The Wooder Cooler, and host of the Around The Cooler podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @VQuinn_TWC.

 

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