After a lengthy search for their next general manager, the Philadelphia 76ers have final made a decision, hiring… former (and current) 76er Elton Brand.
Brand the player finished his career on the court with Philadelphia in 2016. After retiring, he transitioned to the front office of the 76ers as a player developmental consultant; after the 2016-2017 season, Brand was hired as the GM of the 76ers G-League affiliate, serving in that role for over one calendar year.
At 39, Brand will become one of the youngest GMs in the NBA. The question everyone seems to be asking: is this coming too soon? Well, lets explore.
Age is but a number
Brand has been serving in the 76ers front office in some capacity for roughly 20 months, so he has some experience behind him. That’s a start.
Where he lacks in experience, others have lauded his potential for this role, saying he was made for it.
“Those of us who covered EB as a player aren’t surprised in the least. Had that aura about him way back when.”
– Ramona Shelburne, via Twitter (@ramonashelburne)
In reading what others have had to say about Brand’s promotion, many have cited what a great teammate he was. Part of the reason he was in Philadelphia to end his career was to serve as a mentor to a young (and tanking) team looking for any sort of positive direction; clearly he made the right impression.
(In response to Andre Iguodala tweeting: Yeah EB!!!!)
“When I was covering GS, Iguodala told me that Elton Brand was a person that he looked up to a lot ‘He taught me how to be a man in this league.’
Like I said. Brand has the respect of players, a great trait for a GM.”
Sarah Todd, via Twitter (@NBASarah)
During his career as a player, Brand happened to win the NBA Sportsmanship Award (2006). The award, which was introduced to the NBA after the 1995-1996 season, is awarded to players who “exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court with ethical behavior, fair play, and integrity.” Former winners such as Joe Dumars, Avery Johnson, and Jason Kidd went on to become either a head coach or an executive in the league after their playing careers ended; a common thread: including Brand, each of these players became a head executive/coach of an NBA franchise no more than 2 full seasons after retiring.
“…Brand has long been respected as a sharp mind cut out for a role in basketball ops once his career was over, and he is almost universally respected within players circles.”
Kyle Neubeck, via PhillyVoice
Brand was rising through the ranks with the 76ers, and was expected to take on a larger role this season (prior to being named GM). According to Kyle Neubeck, Brand was in the process of “transitioning his focus from the team’s G-League affiliate to a more broadly-distributed role.” This new role was designed to give Brand more influence in the “ultimate decision-making process” of the 76ers (hey, maybe he recommended himself as GM).
This has happened before
Brand is not the first (nor the last) former player to quickly transition into an all-encompassing executive role within the NBA.
Joe Dumars (mentioned above) was a 2x NBA Champion as a player with the Detroit Pistons, playing with the team in 1985-1999. After his first full year of retirement, Dumars was named the President of Basketball Operations for the Pistons; he was 37 when hired. In a role he served for 14 seasons, Dumars built an NBA Champion, as the Pistons won the 2004 NBA Finals. The team tailed off after the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals, not reaching the playoffs his last 6 seasons in charge. Nevertheless, his teams reached 6 ECFs, 2 NBA Finals, and won a championship; for his work in 2002-2003, Dumars was named Executive of the Year.
Celtic legend Kevin McHale retired from Boston in 1993. The Minnesota native joined the front office of the Timberwolves shortly after. A year later, he was promoted to Assistant GM. In 1995, at the ripe age of 37, he was promoted again, this time to GM. His first few decisions were homeruns, as he hired Flip Saunders to become the head coach of the team, and with the 5th pick in the 1995 NBA Draft, McHale chose Kevin Garnett. The team made the playoffs from 1997-2004, however things went south after KG’s MVP season. In what he will ultimately be remembered for, McHale signed off on the trade that sent Garnett to his former franchise: the Boston Celtics. It took until this season for the Timberwolves to reach the playoffs for the first time since that seismic move.
You may remember him as a sharpshooter, or as the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, but Kerr’s first job back in the NBA after retiring was as GM of the Phoenix Suns. Kerr’s involvement with the franchise dates back to 2004, when he was part of the group that purchased the team. He served as a consultant, but was mainly seen on TNT broadcasting NBA games. However, in 2007 (at the age of 41), Kerr was hired as the GM of the franchise. Serving in this role for 3 seasons, highlights include acquiring Shaq, (almost) drafting Stephen Curry, and reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2010 versus the eventual NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers; after the season, Kerr resigned… I think he has found his calling.
Brand will become the GM of a team that won 52 games last season, reached the playoffs for the first time since 2013, and has many intriguing young players. Now seemingly healthy for the long haul, Joel Embiid is set up to anchor this team for years to come; Australian-native Ben Simmons won Rookie of the Year, looking like the reincarnation of Magic Johnson. With 2017 number 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz expected to return at full strength this season, the team should be a top 3 seed in the conference.
The real fun starts in the 2019 offseason, when the 76ers are projected to have the ability to offer any perspective free agent a max contract (and still have money to spare). Possible free agents include: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving (wait, what!), Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and DeMarcus Cousins. If Brand can haul in one of these players to add to Philly’s core, he’ll be poised to be a huge success.
Overall, he has a viable roster to contend with, the praise of his peers, and the respect of the 76ers front office. Others have made the transition to the front office shortly after their playing days were over, and the list does include success stories.
Will Brand join them?
Well… Trust The Process
Follow Nick on Twitter (@nick_collins14)