The extent to which departed Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo was aware of or participated in the many “burner” accounts defending him on Twitter was always irrelevant.
He had to go, and he had to go now.
For what it’s worth, I believed, as the Sixers apparently did, that Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, was behind the vast majority and worst of the Tweets that ultimately doomed his tenure as president of basketball operations. It was sadly plausible that a 53-year-old sports executive would jump on social media under a bunch of different aliases to defend himself against internet trolls — but use somebody else’s phone to do it?
This is 2018, a time in history when most human beings are practically tethered to their cell phones. It was almost inconceivable Bottini’s phone was unattended long or often enough for Colangelo to get his hands on it with such frequency.
Which is why it was baffling to hear the Sixers believed Colangelo, as if for one second they considered the possibility that information shouldn’t cost him his job.
This situation was never about whether Colangelo was right or wrong, guilty or not guilty.
It was about the trust that was destroyed and would likely never be fully regained between a president of basketball operations and the Sixers’ coaches and players. Colangelo may not have authored those negative Tweets about the people in his employ, and he may not have personally spread sensitive information about them in a public forum. Regardless of where it came from, that stuff was out there, and he was ultimately the source for a lot of it.
Who can separate what Colangelo felt from what his wife said?
It was also about how the Sixers organization would be viewed by potential free agents around the NBA come July 1. This is a critical juncture for a team attempting to win a championship, and if even one player would consider steering clear of Philadelphia over the appearance of organizational disarray or because they weren’t comfortable with the front office, that was one too many.
You can’t have the best player in the world, who also happens to be an impending free agent — one that’s been repeatedly tied to the organization — dunking on your president of basketball operations for the entire world to see.
Colangelo probably should’ve been canned the moment LeBron James commented on the Sixers’ scandal. It certainly shouldn’t have taken as long as it did.
I can appreciate the Sixers doing their due diligence and not firing somebody before the full story is out. But once it was confirmed the Tweets came from his wife’s phone, it didn’t much matter to what degree Colangelo was involved with the accounts or their content.
At that point, he was tied to this scandal forever.
Maybe the Sixers, their players and coaches and the rest of the NBA could overlook a president of basketball operations' overbearing, defensive wife in the right climate, maybe if the team was already a legitimate contender or had won something. Even then, Bottini's disclosure of medical information would’ve complicated Colangelo’s ability to stay on manage the team effectively.
But the Sixers are at a tenuous point in their development. They’re trying to attract LeBron, or Kawhi Leonard, or Paul George or another top-tier free agent. They’re trying to take the next step toward becoming a contender. They haven’t accomplished anything yet.
The Sixers weren’t going to be able to accomplish anything, either, not with the most talented players in the world steering clear of Philly, with stars such as Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz mistrustful of management, and with his coach feeling undermined. Whether he tweeted those things or not, cutting ties with Colangelo was the only way forward.