PHILADELPHIA — In a surprising move designed to shake up a franchise sunk in a grueling rebuilding process, the Philadelphia 76ers named longtime NBA executive Jerry Colangelo as chairman of basketball operations on Monday.
Colangelo, the chairman of USA Basketball, also will serve as an adviser to team ownership.
Colangelo had a long career with the Phoenix Suns, serving as coach, CEO and general manager, among other roles. He was also on the NBA's board of governors. Colangelo was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004 as a contributor, considered one of the most influential owners in NBA history.
Sam Hinkie remains the team's general manager and president of basketball operations, though his power in what's known in Philly as "Tankadelphia," will now be shared with Colangelo.
"I think I can offer a lot of mentoring to Sam," Colangelo said.
Coach Brett Brown, on the bench for two losing streaks that have reached 26 games, is safe and could sign a contract extension soon. Brown's four-year deal was set to expire at the end of next season.
The front office loves Brown's teaching, patience, and leadership in guiding the team through the worst era for a franchise that has served as the home of Julius Erving, Wilt Chamberlain, Moses Malone and Allen Iverson.
Brown and the 76ers went 19-63 in 2013-14, 18-64 last season and carried a 1-20 record into Monday's game against San Antonio.
With owner Josh Harris' approval, Hinkie set course in 2013 to gut the team of veteran talent for a dip in the standings over several seasons with the wildly optimistic expectation that the franchise will rise into title contention within the decade.
With two straight 0-17 starts, the process has been a slow one.
"I wish it would go faster," Harris said. "Hopefully, Jerry will allow us to make it go faster. But our goal remains the same, we want to be an elite team."
There's a hope that Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, injured center Joel Embiid and overseas prospect Dario Saric will blossom into All-Stars and at least one, maybe two, will become franchise-type players.
"I don't want to give you a false sense of comfort that it's going to be an immediate turnaround," Harris said.
Based on how some other teams fare, the Sixers could have four first-round picks in the 2015 draft.
"I think we're ready to go to the next phase," Harris said.
While no one predicted playoff contention, Harris expected the Sixers would have more than one victory in the second week of December. The franchise also suffered a PR hit last month when Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick out of Duke, was attached to a string of off-court incidents that included reckless driving and a fight in Boston. He returned Monday night from a two-game suspension.
"There needs to be some support within the organization around the players," Colangelo said. "There seems to be a void of leadership, player-wise."
Harris reached out to Colangelo almost two weeks ago about joining the franchise, and he brings some needed heavyweight credibility to the front office.
Colangelo, who arrived in Phoenix in 1968 to take over the expansion Suns as the youngest general manager in professional sports, also helped bring major league baseball and the NHL to the city.
He now faces one of his tougher professional challenges — raising the Sixers from the bottom of the standings toward their first championship since 1983.
"We're not crying for patience," he said. "But the reality is, in terms of where the team is today, it's going to take some additional patience. Hopefully, the payoff will come. And if the payoff comes, it will be more than worth (it)."