Harris talks goals, Bynum, Devils and more

Harris talks goals, Bynum, Devils and more
September 29, 2013, 4:00 pm
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Josh Harris hired a new general manager/president, CEO and head coach for the Sixers this offseason. (AP)

Of all the front office folks, Sixers managing owner Josh Harris had the busiest offseason. There were positions to fill, tough decisions to be made and a whole new direction in which to set his franchise.

Harris hired a new general manager in Sam Hinkie, a new CEO in Scott O’Neill and a new coach, Brett Brown, to set the Sixers on a path toward rebuilding.

He also bought the Sixers’ D-League team and moved it to Delaware and bought the NHL team in New Jersey, too.

But for the first time since taking over the Sixers before the 2011-12 season, Harris has put his stamp on the team. It’s truly his now.

“It feels like a different place now, so it’s exciting,” Harris said during his preseason state of the Sixers chat with the local press.

A few of the topics Harris touched on during his conference on Sunday were:

His expectations for the Sixers in 2013-14:
“I’m excited about the changes we made in the offseason and some of the new people we have. Obviously, our coach, our GM, our CEO — they’re all new. I think we’re really putting the pieces in place to build a strong foundation for consistently winning and being a competitive championship team. That’s always been the goal. I’ve kind of had that vision so it’s nice to see the level of intensity this year in practice.”

On the overhaul and finally putting his stamp on the franchise:
“We took over and then we out-performed everyone’s expectations. … I always had a vision for the use of advanced analytics, the use of sports science and health and nutrition and I always had a vision for creating excellence on and off the court. When I first bought the team there were elements of the team that I noticed that weren’t how I would have done it. But we did so well that first season that I chose to stick with the plan. We out-performed everyone’s expectations and the second season was a big disappointment. That made me feel empowered to make some changes. I always had the vision, but I took it a little more slowly than I would have given the success we had in the first season.”

On the Andrew Bynum trade and the disappointment of the 2012-13 season:
“You have to measure decisions against outcomes. Sometimes in sports there is an element of randomness. I think going for Andrew Bynum was the right decision because it’s very tough to get a player of that caliber. We did a bunch of work and his health problems ended up being worse than anyone thought. That decision was fine. I’m a big boy — we made a decision and it didn’t work out. But I think some of the other player decisions we made weren’t as good and I noticed those and that certainly weighed on me when we chose to go in a different direction.”

On having patience with the Sixers’ rebuilding movement:
“I’m not a patient person by nature. I want immediate results and immediate upsides, but I think that the reality of professional sports is things don’t change overnight. There are 29 other owners and everyone is smart and everyone is resourced so it’s all about getting an edge. I think the edge comes from putting the right people in place in management and when we were able to get Sam Hinkie and Scott O’Neill and Brett Brown, these are A-players. I feel very, very excited about those moves.”

On the similarities between owning businesses and sports teams:
“I think they are similar in a lot of ways. I’d say it starts with having a great franchise with a great culture, values and history and then it comes down to the people you have in place and building edges and the strategy and motivating people. There are a lot of similarities in resourcing it and making the right investment decisions around players, coaches and management team.

“The difference is the media footprint is different. In our chemical companies, no one really cares what the price of polypropylene is. But everyone from my son, to my uncle to my cousins to my mother — everyone has an opinion on the player decisions.

“When you own a business the profit motivation drives you. But when you own a sports team it’s a public trust. Winning is really important and winning is my primary goal. I don’t think it’s inconsistent, but it can be in the short run.”

On buying the New Jersey Devils while owning the Sixers:
“I understand if you are born and bred in Philadelphia, I can certainly understand that you’re an all-Philly fan. I acknowledge that. My answer to that is, I love the Sixers and Philly. I’m committed to it. The fact that I have personal ties to Philly with my mom and Newark through my dad and the fact that I own a hockey team in Newark doesn’t change the commitment to the Sixers and basketball.

“It won’t change one iota how I try to make this a championship team.”

On dividing his time between the Sixers, Devils and business:
“Apollo (Harris’ company) owns 41 portfolio companies including some like Hostess and Caesars and Norwegian Cruise Lines and with the Sixers we bring in top-tier management and what we do is work with those management teams to ask the right questions and put incentive plans in place for those managers to create value for those franchises and then hold them accountable,” Harris said.

“I’m not involved with the day-to-day of those companies and the same is true of the Devils and the Sixers. Sam runs the player side of the business and Coach Brown runs the on-court and Scott runs the business side and he reports to a board, which I chair. The way you get the best people is to empower them and if I was meddling too much, then someone like Sam or Scott wouldn’t want to work for me. They’d go somewhere else. If you run your businesses that way it allows you to do a lot. The only difference is that I go to the games, and that’s a fun thing for me.”

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