PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — Philadelphia 76ers President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo has resigned amid an investigation into an alleged use of a variety of Twitter accounts that anonymously trashed some Sixers players and fellow executives. The investigation revealed that Colangelo’s wife was behind those accounts.
“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,” 76ers managing partner Josh Harris said in a statement.
The law firm concluded that Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, was behind the burner Twitter accounts and was the one who posted the information.
“When interviewed, Ms. Bottini admitted establishing and operating the accounts. Forensic evidence corroborates her admissions,” the law firm said.
The law firm could not say if Colangelo was aware of the Twitter accounts and stated he denied “any such awareness.”
“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,” the firm said.
During a press conference on Thursday, Harris called it an “unfortunate situation.”
“It’s an unfortunate situation but it doesn’t change us where we are as a franchise. We have a lot of continuity,” said Harris.
Harris said that head coach Brett Brown will oversee the basketball operations department on an interim basis as they search for a new general manager. Brown says he has spoken to his players since the controversy started.
“It was certainly an incredibly unfortunate situation that did confuse people, it confused our players. We feel strong that our communication with our players has been achieved,” said Brown.
Colangelo said in a statement that he disputes “the allegation that my conduct was in any way reckless.”
“At no point did I ever purposefully or directly share any sensitive, non-public, club-related information with her,” Colangelo said about his wife. “Her actions were a seriously misguided effort to publicly defend and support me, and while I recognize how inappropriate these actions were, she acted independently and without my knowledge or consent. Further, the content she shared was filled with inaccuracies and conjecture which in no way represent my own views or opinions. While this was obviously a mistake, we are a family and we will work through this together.”
The allegations, first reported by the sports website The Ringer, claim five burner Twitter accounts linked to Colangelo took aim at Sixers players Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz, former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie, among others.
The tweets also raised the question of whether Colangelo used the anonymous accounts to divulge team strategy and details about players’ medical conditions.
Colangelo acknowledged using one of the accounts to monitor the NBA industry and other current events but said he wasn’t familiar with the four others.
The Ringer said it had been monitoring the accounts since February, when it received an anonymous tip. It said it found numerous connections among the accounts that suggested the same person was behind them.
The Ringer said it initially asked the Sixers about just two of the accounts, and the same day the three others were suddenly made private.
It’s a stunning fall for Colangelo, a former two-time Executive of the Year who was expected to lead the improving 76ers into an important summer when they are hoping to pursue LeBron James or another All-Star player to add to a young core that includes Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Colangelo, the son of longtime sports executive Jerry Colangelo, was hired as president of basketball operations in 2016 after Hinkie abruptly resigned. Hinkie was the architect behind what has been called “The Process” — the long-term tearing down and rebuilding of the Sixers.
Colangelo previously served as Raptors general manager, adding the 2007 Executive of the Year award to the one he won two years earlier in Phoenix. But he lost his job there after Toronto missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, and Ujiri took over basketball operations.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)