Do You Want Barkey Running the Sixers?
Charles Barkley doesn’t understand why we can’t take him seriously. Which is all at once uber-funny and endlessly ironic. When should we have started?
Or all of a sudden now, this exchange on the Dan Patrick Show Wednesday:
DP: I saw where your name came up as GM for the Sixers? Are you interested in being the Sixers GM?
CB: “I would sit down and talk to them out of respect to them.
DP: No. Do you want the job.
CB: Wait a minute — I think everybody knows that I want to be a GM, and I would sit down and talk to them.
DP: Well you said out of respect. It sounds like you would like to be interviewed for the job.
CB: “I think the main thing is it would depend on the financial considerations. I’m not taking no big old huge pay cut. Let’s get that straight. I’m not overly concerned about the recession we’ve been in, but I’m just not gonna give away millions of dollars. That’s just stupid.”
As is (apropos here for its oh-so-Barkley tone) Barkley’s candidacy. As would be any team’s consideration of it. Stupid. Jokey. Bumbling. Laughable. Gaffe-able. Raising David Khan 2.0.
How Barkley thinks “he’s ready for the challenge” as he’d go on to say, is kind of ground-zero for the anti-Barkely as GM argument. Dude’s totally lost touch with the mandates of the job. It’s not about humor or headlines. It’s about rolling up your sleeves and diving in, head first and everything after. Many ex-players shared Barkley’s denial about their chops as league executives. Just as many have failed, crashing and burning and badly. Isaiah Thomas. Michael Jordan. Elgin Baylor. Billy Knight. Jim Paxson. Plenty of players with plenty resumes better and brighter than Barkley’s. Yet they all bottomed out.
And theirs were the simplest of flaws. They just didn’t get it. Not everybody does. Understanding, grasping, mastering the finer nuances of team building, player chemistry, the salary cap, the CBA — you know, the vast majority of the prereq expertise — is tricky business. Career pencil-pushers struggle with that everyday. Would Barkley have what it takes? Who knows?
What we know he’s got? A persona. an ego. Opinions. What we know he doesn’t? A filter. Tact. Timing.
That’s not what defines leadership. Not in Corporate America. Listen to Jim Collins (dude authored what’s basically the business sustainability bible, “Good To Great”) talk about what he calls Level 5 leadership, defined with words like “self-effacing,” “introverted,” and “maniacal about attention to detail,” all of which Collins proved (empirically, over a 10-plus year study that cited 10,000-plus articles and about as many pages of data) a must for men at the top of Fortune 500-type companies. Not in American sports front offices. Ever see Bill Belichick smile? Bill Polian dance? Hear Theo Epstein kid? Sam Presti talk? (Even a word?) No. No you don’t. They’re too busy working, thinking, planning. Scheming ways to make their teams better. Stealing guys off the waiver wire. Ending 86-year World Series droughts. Swinging one blockbuster trade after another, hitting on draft picks like punching a pillow.
The only thing Barkley builds is his brand, making Sir Charles the King Of Clownery.
To anybody who thinks this a good idea — or even stops to think of it at all — you’re kidding yourselves, as awesomely badly as Barkley has been you for the
better longer half of his life.
Forget that he’s underqualified. Forget his tepid expression of interest. (Lot of things I’d do “out of respect,” too. Like, give my boss two weeks notice. Or go to my banshee of a grade school principal’s funeral.) Forget the cautionary tales. Forget what your gut tells you: “RUN THE OTHER WAY!!!”
Barkley can’t GM this team because he can’t even manage himself. What goes in his mouth, what comes out — everything. Guy’s a mess. A lovable and charismatic and relatable mess, a mess who trumpets unsung heroes like teachers and doctors and soldiers, a mess you’d just as quickly label a “good hang” or a “helluva story.” But a mess, first and foremost and last.
Sorry if that’s harsh, but these are the harsh standards Barkley subjected himself to when he inserted his name into the conversation. Danny Ferry — the foremost fave for the Sixers job as of yesterday, and, maybe, moreso now, given his competition — is getting lit up for his flaws (namely, his inability to find talent and support stars). As is Barkley here. And that many of you would rush to Barkley’s defense is part of the problem. You’re defending him as a guy. A good guy. But a guy, nonetheless. Why you feel that urge? Because that’s what he is: Just one of the guys. That’s what he’s always wanted to be, what he’s always tried so damned hard to be. Maybe you could drop the same, condescending, back-handed compliment that your doubtful high school teachers did you throughout your formative years. (Oh? That was just me? Oh…) “If you put half as much effort into (thing you should be doing) as you do (thing you shouldn’t be doing), you’d be great.” And maybe you’d be right.
But we don’t have time for wait-and-see with Barkley. Forget that sports management (like anything management) should be a meritocracy, and not about charity or popularity. The Sixers have to get better, and fast. They need to figure out whether they’re trading Iguodala. And to whom. And for what. If at all. They need to figure out whether to amnesty Elton Brand. Or save the one-time-only get-out-of-jail-free card, just in case. They need to figure out whether to re-sign Lou Williams. And for what. If at all. They need to coddle Evan Turner. (In fairness, the way Ferry didn’t James.) In the draft. In free agency. With trades. They need to lure Deron Williams. And players like him.
You think Barkley’s up for all that? Any of it?
Leave it to Barkley for a quotable-enough answer…