On Wednesday, Sports Illustrated published an in-depth profile of former 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie and how he's spending his new life away from basketball. You can find it online here and in the latest print edition of the magazine.
You might know by now that Hinkie lives in Palo Alto, Calif., and is a frequent presence at Stanford University. You might not have known about the nature of his day-to-day interactions on the campus, and how he's teaching students there about philosophies that extend way beyond sports.
A few choice anecdotes from Chris Ballard's story are below. The full story will take you a while, and I doubt it will change the mind of anyone who's a devout Hinkie fan or devout Hinkie hater. But it's definitely worth your time.
He certainly looks different. In Philly he was clean-cheeked, with a perfect left-side part, a Mad Men character come to life. He owned 25 blue blazers, all size 40 regular. The goal: reduce decision fatigue, the psychological phenomenon in which the more choices we make in any given day, the worse we are at making them. So, like Steve Jobs (black turtleneck, jeans) and Barack Obama (blue or gray suit), Hinkie settled on a uniform and ran with it. Boom! Decades of choices, eliminated in one fell swoop.
Now, however, his thin brown hair is shorn to a stubble that matches his nascent tech-guy beard, and he is wearing shorts, a T-shirt and a fleece. He looks like he just arrived for your fantasy football draft. By the end in Philly, Hinkie couldn't order from GrubHub without being asked to pose for a selfie with the driver. (He'd do it in the garage, so as not to disclose his location.) Since moving to Palo Alto in August he has yet to be recognized.
"Sam's respected, and that's the biggest thing for sure," says one GM. Another points out that just by having confidence in his ideas, Hinkie is appealing to owners. Because, for one, how many people can do the job of NBA GM? And within that subset how many of those actually have a plan? (See the last 10 years in Sacramento.)
In Philly, Hinkie became known as a cutthroat negotiator, sometimes to his detriment. But at least one rival GM thought his rep was earned partly because Hinkie's combination of certainty and patience was intimidating. He knew what he wanted and was willing to wait for it. This is not the norm in pro sports, where, as one exec says, "To be honest, most of us are just plowing through."
For his part Hinkie is a proponent of frequent self-assessment. He espouses writing down your thoughts in a notebook - he carries a leather-bound one - because it forces you to confront your initial predictions and opinions. He now admits that, yes, he probably should have been nicer to player agents. "I could have taken David Falk out to lunch and said sorry." And, yes, he could have communicated better.
"Now, sitting where I am, maybe I should have focused on the story more," he says. (Hinkie's noncompete restricts him from disparaging comments about the owners, though he says, "I only have good things to say about them anyway.") As for his cult hero status - bearded, brainy young men wear shirts bearing Hinkie's face to Sixers games - he claims to be bewildered. Upon meeting his acolytes in person, he says his advice is, "Calm down," because, "there's no way I can live up to their outsized expectations."