Bryan Colangelo ready to put his blueprint into action for Sixers

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Bryan Colangelo, president of the Philadelphia 76ers, will oversee his first draft with the team on Thursday.

PHOENIX - Get ready, Philly. This week is the week for Bryan Colangelo.

The NBA draft is Thursday, and that is Colangelo time. It's the time for trades and deals and talk that the "future is now."

And that means it's really Colangelo time.

Expect the 76ers' new president to finally excite the team's long-suffering fans. Expect him to create intrigue, dive into backroom deals, and instigate last-minute moves.

According to many who know the man, the way to get to know Bryan Colangelo is to watch him operate around draft time.

"I don't know what it is," said Allentown native Jude LaCava, the longtime sports anchor for Fox10 News in Phoenix, where Colangelo used to run things. "But I know they are going to do something that says, 'Wow. Wait a minute. There's something going on.' "

The Sixers have the first, 24th, and 26th picks in the draft. Don't expect things to remain that way.

Said LaCava of Bryan and his father, Jerry, a senior consultant for the Sixers: "They are not afraid to make bold, big . . . moves."

Those bold moves are meant to turn the Sixers from Sam Hinkie's laughingstock into Bryan Colangelo's Eastern Conference contender within a couple of seasons. While Colangelo says little publicly about his actual plan, the blueprint is clear.

It's time to win.

It was a typical warm May morning in the Valley of the Sun as Jerry Colangelo walked onto the Arizona Biltmore Golf Course, one of the many properties he owns with longtime real estate partners David Eaton and Mel Shutz of JDM Partners.

Almost instantly after he entered the course's Adobe restaurant for a breakfast meeting, a lady blurted out: "Show them how it's done in Pennsylvania, Jerry."

Moments later, an older gentleman approached Colangelo's table and let a visitor know that Jerry has been extremely successful doing things his way.

Folks here know all too well about the things the Sixers consultant can help his son do.

Everyone from the National Car Rental agent at the Sky Harbor International Airport to the front-desk clerk at the Renaissance Phoenix downtown hotel to the Walgreens cashier at W. McDowell Road voiced their appreciation for the Colangelos.

It's obvious that the Colangelos are considered by many the first family of not just Phoenix but the state of Arizona. They are credited with making Phoenix a great professional sports town and revitalizing the downtown.

That's because Jerry Colangelo, 76, helped bring pro sports here in 1968 as the general manager of the expansion Suns. Colangelo, who would eventually own the team, turned it into a Western Conference contender through smart trades and successful drafts.

The thought is that the same father-and-son combination can elevate the 76ers back to the elite level of the NBA.

Bryan Colangelo was hired as the Sixers' president of basketball operations in April, four months after Jerry Colangelo was named chairman of basketball operations and team consultant. The father dropped the chairman title once the son was hired. But Jerry Colangelo will remain someone Bryan Colangelo and the ownership group lean on often for advice.

With those two on board, the best advice many in Phoenix have for fans in Philadelphia is to enjoy the ride. They say that Jerry is eager to assist his son in bringing excitement and respect back to the Sixers - and that he likely will be successful. They have an addiction to establishing and rebuilding franchises.

"I mean, there's nothing like it," Jerry Colangelo said. "There's such a rush. There's a thrill."

A daily reminder of this rush is the enormous 2008 Olympic gold-medal ring Jerry still proudly wears for leading a once-broken USA basketball team back to world dominance, after taking over as director in 2005.

The rush that comes from rebuilding a franchise was visible in Bryan Colangelo during the Sixers' predraft workouts last week.

Bryan, like his father before him, exuded confidence as he walked around the practice court and talked to reporters. He is sure he will make the right moves, sure that he is battle-tested after years in Phoenix and Toronto, sure that his timing with the Sixers is right on.

"I know that Bryan is smart, efficient," said Tom Van Arsdale, a former Sixers and Suns player who lives in Phoenix. "He knows the game. . . . I would be surprised if he and Jerry don't bring that special feeling back to the Sixers."

Bryan Colangelo is always in a rush these days.

It was hours before the first of two workouts at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine on Tuesday, and Colangelo was already antsy to get things started.

When the workout finally began, Colangelo sat at the far left end of the gymnasium, away from most of the other Sixers brass. And he couldn't sit still.

The 51-year-old talked on his cellphone, but his eyes remained glued to the action on the court. He's always trying to get the edge on his phone, to discuss options with other team executives. So if that means multitasking while a prospect is working out, so be it.

Colangelo did the same thing a couple of hours later during the second workout - and during Wednesday morning's drills. Talk, talk, talk. Always busy.

The only difference was that instead of comparing notes with his staff afterward, he rushed out of Wednesday's workout to join vice president Marc Eversley in New York for the Excels International workout.

He's always in a rush.

All this came three days after Colangelo caught a red-eye flight back from scouting European draft prospects in Italy - and meeting with Sixers draftee Dario Saric in Turkey - in time to work out former Duke small forward Brandon Ingram.

Then, during a week when sleep wasn't an option, he and coach Brett Brown flew to Cleveland for a dinner meeting with former Louisiana State power forward Ben Simmons, whom they are expected to select first overall on Thursday.

Still rushing. Always busy.

"Behind the scenes, I assure you that he's the most focused, hardworking guy I ever met," said Tom O'Malley, chief operating officer and general counselor for JDM Partners.

O'Malley previously was general counsel for all of Jerry Colangelo's sports franchises and sports facilities, including the Suns and Major League Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks, which Jerry also owned.

He's seen Bryan Colangelo make eye-popping moves as the general manager of the Suns and Toronto Raptors. Colangelo already owns two NBA executive-of-the-year awards.

But after a three-year layoff after being forced out of Toronto and being passed over for other opportunities, most recently for the Brooklyn Nets general manager's job in February, sources said, Colangelo is determined to show the NBA that he's still a major player in this league.

The expectation is the mind-blowing, draft-day deals that Sam Hinkie made could be nothing more than footnotes to the reshaping of the franchise that Colangelo is about to undertake, especially with his father as a consultant.

"Flipping a team and making them win in a short period of time is something in the Colangelo blood," LaCava said. "I've seen it. I saw it in 1987 and 1988. I saw it in 1992."

Some critics look at Bryan Colangelo as an impeccably dressed daddy's boy. They say he was given every job that he's had - including this one - because of his family ties.

While he is perhaps one of the NBA's best-dressed executives, he is far from a daddy's boy. The Colangelos have distinct personalities.

Jerry is more approachable and open than his son. Bryan is guarded, and appears to be a little standoffish.

But . . .

"Once people get to know me," Bryan Colangelo said, "I have young people say to me all the time, 'I never knew you were like that. I only heard things.' "

They both possess a take-charge attitude and an "I don't give a dang what they say" approach when it comes to making major decisions.

Jerry was known for flipping his roster several times during his days running and later owning the Suns. He wasn't afraid to hand out lucrative contracts as owner of the Diamondbacks, which led to their winning the 2001 World Series.

And he was a visionary in opening the American West Arena in a dicey and underdeveloped Phoenix downtown in 1992. That arena led to the influx of businesses that led to the downtown's morphing into a popular destination.

"He's been a blessing for Phoenix," said Van Arsdale. "I can't say enough good things about him. He's the kind of leader that every sports franchise in every city would love to have."

kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

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