Scott O'Neil introduced as Sixers' new CEO

Scott O'Neil introduced as Sixers' new CEO

July 8, 2013, 8:45 pm

Scott O'Neil walked into the Sixers' media room at their PCOM practice facility on Monday afternoon with a large grin on his face.

With a team staring at a complete rebuild in its future, it may be hard to see what the Sixers' new CEO had to be so happy about at this point in time. However, he is simply embracing the challenge ahead of him.

"The kind of history and tradition obviously that comes with the Sixers. Secondly, it’s a place my family wants to be, which is really helpful," O'Neil said about his reasoning behind joining the Sixers. "Thirdly, and maybe most important, is that I like these owners, I like the guys. They’re smart, they’re aggressive, they’re young, they want to grow, they’re competitive as hell and they want to win and they’ll put the resources behind it. I’ve been in this business a long time -- been in this business for over 20 years -- and to have an ownership group that you can really connect with, that wants to be kind of world class and connect with the community and build a team that will be winning for the sustainable future, that’s fun. This is a fun time to be here."

O'Neil replaces Adam Aron as Sixers' CEO (see story). That may be where the comparisons between the two businessmen come to an end.

Aron was the de facto face of the franchise with his nightly appearances at Sixers games and big social media presence. While O'Neil understands the importance of a CEO being accessible to the public, his approach is in stark contrast to his predecessor.

"I don’t know too much about Adam. I was in the league a couple years when he was there, but I was much more busy with my job, so I’m not exactly sure what he did," O'Neil said. "But if you ask people who know me they’ll say I’m straight up, straight shooter. I like to engage fans quite a bit. I’ll do it in my own way.

"When I was with the Eagles, Pat Croce was kind of the face of the Sixers. I used to marvel at him like this guy is scaling buildings and climbing a bridge. That’s not me. I’m not climbing any damn buildings. I’m scared of heights as it is. But you’ll find a friendly face. I’ll engage fans and business partners. I’m a salesman by trade. I’ll be in and around and available. I do tweet but not at the level that maybe others do. I’m engaged, I stick to kind of the inside world. I’ll do my own thing and have my own identity and do what I want to do."

O'Neil, a Villanova grad who last worked for the New York Knicks, will work in tandem with Sixers president and general manager Sam Hinkie. O'Neil believes the two should form a very good partnership.

"First thing he says when he gets on the phone is, ‘Hey, this is about partnership. I want to be a great partner,’" O'Neil said of his first interaction with Hinkie. "I said, ‘Hey, nothing I want more than that too.’ I think we’ll work really well together. We’re different people. I think we have the same vision, we have the same mission, we have the same goal. He wants to build a championship-contending team. I want him to build a championship-contending team."

Hinkie has already started his process of rebuilding the Sixers' roster by trading away All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, acquiring what he hopes will be impact rookies in the 2014 draft and stockpiling picks for the future. Now O'Neil must tackle the assignment of fixing the organization's public profile while making profitable decisions at the same time.

"I think, first and foremost, it’s about engaging the fans," O'Neil said of his responsibilities. "This is a city with passionate fans. I like when they’re loud and proud, and we need that energy. We got to build a home-court advantage here. Secondly, is from a business standpoint we have to continue to build this business to be successful so we have the resources to be successful and give Sam the resources to do what he needs to do. Thirdly, I think we have to really commit to the community. This is an organization that’s done a good job in the community. We have a special place in the heart [of a city], sports franchises do. I think we have an obligation to give back. We have the opportunity and obligation to really make a difference, so hopefully you’ll see some of that as well."

That all sounds like a solid blueprint. However, O'Neil knows many of his plans won't be successful if the team on the court isn't winning, and it will take a person fully invested in the game to help pull a turnaround off.

That level of commitment shouldn't be a problem for O'Neil.

"I’m a junkie. I’m a total basketball junkie. I still play. I coach my daughters -- decent little ballers, too.

"I’m happy to be here."