Sam Hinkie would welcome NBA return if right opportunity came
There are some people who didn't appreciate the job Sam Hinkie did as general manager during his tenure with the Sixers from 2013 to 2016.
In his term, Hinkie revolutionized the concept of "tanking" in order to build assets and better a franchise for the long-term future.
In a giant Sixers fanbase, the Sam Hinkie doubters aren't nearly as prominent as the supporters, who come out in numbers. Hinkie coined the term "The Process," which to this day, remains the team's hidden slogan, a concept the newly-taken over franchise refuses to recognize.
Hinkie was a martyr, and may never be recognized for his bringing in of Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, and the ability to draft Ben Simmons with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft. Maybe one day, when the "Process" is complete, the world, mainly the Sixers organization, will formally recognize Hinkie for the great figure in team history that he is.
Hinkie recently made a rare appearance at the MIT Sloan Analytics Conference in Boston back in late February, where he joined several other current and former NBA general managers in talking about the need to find stars to compete in the NBA.
After scouting and eventually drafting Embiid, Hinkie's presence at the conference was obviously backed up by his particular selection of the center.
Sheil Kapadia of the Athletic was at the conference in Boston, and pretty much explained perfectly how impactful Hinkie is to the NBA world, even if some people questioned his path.
Hinkie, himself, was a superstar at the 3,500-person conference, which began back in 2006. He was on two panels, and both times, the crowd offered applause. Perhaps the only person all weekend who received a warmer greeting was President Barack Obama, who spoke on Friday.
John Gonzalez of The Ringer sat down with Hinkie in a more one-on-one scenario at the conference, talking to him about life, the NBA, and his future in the league. Hinkie seemed unsure on how to answer it, but he responded in an intelligent way, unsure of where his journey will take him next.
“I would be delighted in the right situation. I worked 11 years in the NBA, and eight of those I was not the top guy and loved it. Three of those, I was and loved that, too, in a different way. I think it’s more important to work with amazing people than it is your exact position.”
“I don’t know what the odds are,” he said about never going back to the league, “but they’re real.”
More likely than anything else, Hinkie's next venture may just take him away from basketball completely.
“If there’s no edge to chase,” Hinkie said, “it’s not very interesting.”
“So, you ask me what I might do,” he told Gonzalez. “I don’t suspect I’m going to coast from here on out. I want to try something hard.”
Gonzalez responded to that quote in his piece to say that Hinkie's job as Sixers GM was "pretty damn hard." And it was, there's no doubt about that. Personally, I obviously have no experience with running a professional sports franchise, but for an ultra-inteliigent guy like Hinkie, he seems to believe that there are jobs out in the world, adventures he might go on, that are a lot more strenuous than the one he had with Philadelphia.
“Quite honestly, the traditional, high-tech entrepreneurial life is much harder than being a GM.” Then he outlined the challenges. Raising money. Starting a firm. Worrying about running out of cash. He called the stress they live with “incredible.”
People wonder what Hinkie will do differently if he ever returns to the NBA. People wonder what would've been if he was able to finish out his Process with the Sixers and develop a winning team. What would life be like with Hinkie now if he never was forced out by the NBA? But for now, Hinkie seems content with his escape from the basketball world, an escape from the media frenzy and criticism.
“I like to learn, and I get to learn a lot in this period,” Hinkie said. “I like to explore, and I get to explore a lot in this period. I like to meet awesome people, and I get to meet a lot of awesome people. And I still have almost all of my closest people in my life. I don’t feel nearly as isolated as some might think.”
Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren offered his take on Hinkie and the kind of person that he is, contrary to what many people think he is like post-Sixers.
“Sam is not some dark, brooding genius,” said Zarren. “He’s really a friendly, open guy. But he became this caricature for both sides, for the people who like him and the people who don’t. And the interesting thing is, the caricature was the same.”
Despite what your personal opinion is of Sam Hinkie, he did what he had to do to get the Sixers in a position to have playoff success. You may hate him or you may adore him, but the fact of the matter is, that the Sixers are sitting at 35-28 as of March 7, 2018 in the best shape to win in over five years.
It was Hinkie's plan, and whatever happens next, he seems to have the drive to be successful in any forthcoming endeavor of life.
Josh Liddick is Sixers managing editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshLiddickTalk.