The five reasons Ed Stefanski is out as the Sixers' GM
By Stuart London | Posted: Saturday, October 29, 2011 7:31 am
Ed Stefanski being relieved of his duties as the 76ers general manager was the Joshua Harris ownership group's first order of business.
And, while it was met with general approval among Sixers fans (and outright glee by many), my first thought was this: It didn't have to be this way.
When Stefanski replaced the unpopular Billy King as president of the franchise four years ago, it seemed like the perfect marriage.
He had helped the New Jersey Nets make the NBA finals twice as an assistant to Rod Thorn. He was a local boy having played at Monsignor Bonner and Penn and done Big 5 basketball telecasts for a number of years.
He knew the passion of the local basketball fan and we liked him and wanted him to succeed. When his wife talked about how she was so glad he did not have to drive all the way to North Jersey to work anymore - we were glad too.
So how did such a popular choice get demoted a year ago and dropped like a sack of potatoes at the first opportunity?
Choices. It's all about the choices.
There was no one move that sank Stefanski's reign in Philly, but a series of basketball choices. Some were his fault, others not. Since he is a Big 5 guy, here are five major reasons Stefanski is no longer here.
1. He hired Eddie Jordan as coach.
There is probably a better than 50-50 chance Stefanski would still have his job if he had not decided to hire his old pal from the New Jersey Nets.
There was great optimism for the team at the time. It had just taken the Orlando Magic to six tough games in the 2009 playoffs. The team took a bad loss in Game 6 despite the Magic not having Dwight Howard and it ended interim coach Tony DiLeo's time on the bench. But it looked like Stefanski's Sixers had turned the corner.
In looking for a coach, Stefanski kept telling the media that Jordan, who had been let go earlier in the season as head coach of the Washington Wizards but had been a Nets assistant when Stefanski was there, was not the favorite and that he would do "due diligence" in finding the best coach.
Doug Collins' agent called Stefanski to let him know he was interested. He did not get an interview.
Eventually, seven people did get interviews for the job, including Tom Thibodeaux, then a Boston Celtics assistant and, now, the newly named NBA Coach of the Year after he guided the Chicago Bulls to its best season since Jordan was there.
The Sixers were a young team that loved the fast break but definitely needed some tightening up on the defensive end.
In the end, as we know, Stefanski picked Jordan, a coach known for having a disciplined offense. His Wizards teams were not known for being defensive standouts. A round peg was put in a square whole.
What had looked like a future contender went 27-55 the following year. Stefanski made the right choice and pulled the plug on Jordan.
A couple of months after that, his old Nets boss Rod Thorn became team president. Stefanski because just the general manager.
2. He never addressed the point guard problem.
The Sixers had a slick veteran point guard in Andre Miller but his contract was up and he was in his early 30s.
Having shelled out big bucks for Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala in the past two seasons, Stefanski decided not to offer a big contract to Miller. The Sixers hoped no one else would offer Miller a long-term deal and they'd be able to get him on the cheap for a couple of years.
The Portland Trail Blazers signed Miller to a long-term deal, and he has been an effective player for them the past two seasons.
Without Miller, Stefanski and the rest of the Sixers brass informed us that we did not need a point guard, that Lou Williams would bring up the ball and we would go into that vaunted Princeton offense of Eddie Jordan.
So we had an ill-fitting coach for 2009-10 and no leadership on the floor. Result: 27-55
3. Two words: Andre Iguodala
I think we all know how this went.
His agent made it clear that Andre Iguodala was would go the free agency route after the 2008 season if he didn't get a big-bucks contract. Stefanski, new to the job, didn't want to look bad losing the team's top player, on the heels of Allen Iverson leaving, so he gave Iggy the huge six-year, $80-million deal.
What happened next was not Stefanski's fault. The global economy went into a tailspin, NBA revenues dropped and the salary cap tightened around the Sixers like a boa constrictor with Iguodala and Elton Brand's massive contracts.
Stefanski basically was unable to make any real major moves after the Iguodala because he had no maneuverability with the cap. So, yes, the prime rate mortgage scandal hurt the Sixers big time.
4. Two more words: Elton Brand
Everyone hailed Stefanski as a genius for getting forward Elton Brand away from the Los Angeles Clippers as the premier free agent signing in the NBA in 2008.
He had been a No. 1 pick in the draft out of Duke and a two-time all-star. Yes, he had torn his Achilles tendon but he had through hard work managed to play the last few games of the previous season with the Clippers.
The Sixers could fast break but they had no inside presence. Seemed like the perfect fit and we all waited to see how far into the playoffs this new great team would go.
But, again, it went horribly wrong.
There had been no physical before signing Brand. It turned out the tendon was still not 100 percent and he hurt his shoulder early in his first year and missed pretty much the rest of the season.
When he returned, Jordan was the coach and he made it clear Brand was not his cup of tea.
Finally, this past season, healthy and with Collins coaching, Brand became a good player, averaging 15 points and 9 rebounds. Maybe not the player we envisioned - or paid for - but he contributes and is a good guy in the locker room.
Having Brand and Iguodala on the team is not the problem, paying so much for two guys who are very good but not great is. It has put the Sixers over the cap and stopped them from getting great players.
5. He had to dump Samuel Dalembert.
This is not really Stefanski's fault because trouble with center Samuel Camembert was brewing.
(Personal note: I interviewed Dalembert several times and he is really a nice guy and done a lot for the people back in his home country of Haiti. This is strictly a basketball analysis).
A latecomer to the game, Dalembert is an excellent rebounder and shot-blocker. He was not so good on the offensive end. The fact he didn't get the ball a lot after Iverson left - he knew to feed the big guy - frustrated Dalembert. He let it be known he wanted out.
Center is the most important position in the NBA and having someone unhappy in that spot does not make for good team chemistry. Dalembert was finally dealt to the Sacramento Kings before the 2010-11 season. It was a trade that had to be made for new coach Doug Collins' sake.
The problem is, the Sixers are now looking for a good rebounding and shot-blocking center who doesn't need to score a lot. In other words, another Dalembert.
Hope I have not been too mean or critical but, as a frustrated 76ers fan, I needed to get this out.
Good luck to Stefanski as the new vice president of basketball operation in Toronto.