Two weeks ago, 76ers President and General Manager Ed Stefanski fired the coach he'd just hired, Eddie Jordan. At the press conference, Stefanski sat alone and that seemed an omen for his fate, too. It didn't seem too distant in the future that Stefanski would be the subject of another press conference, this one announcing Comcast-Spectacor's decision to "go in a different direction" with their team leadership.
But that hasn't happened. What also hasn't happened is a public declaration that Stefanski's job is safe. As of right now, his job isn't guaranteed. And yet this year's coaching search is playing out with remarkably similar candidates (minus Eddie Jordan) as last year's coaching search.
Here's what we have so far: Doug Collins, contacted. Avery Johnson, contacted. On the list: Dwane Casey (still coaching with the Dallas Mavericks), Tom Thibodeau (still coaching with the Boston Celtics), and Mike Budenholzer (still coaching with the San Antonio Spurs). Also reportedly being discussed: Jeff Van Gundy, Mike Fratello, and former Toronto Raptors coach Sam Mitchell.
If you look back to this search a year ago, almost all of those names overlap. Two weeks ago, when Stefanski spoke about this search, it seemed like they were going to be going over all kinds of names and potential candidates, coming up with new guys on the upswing of their careers, making a list of young, sharp coaches who would be up for this challenge, and then uncovering a guy perfectly suited for this team and this organization.
A coach that would mesh with the team's plan and the culture of the 76ers. Right?
But of course that's impossible, because here's the bigger problem: there doesn't seem to be a plan or a culture. Right now, that's the more pressing hole than the coaching vacancy. Because if Stefanski stays (and that's an issue in itself), and hires any one of the aforementioned guys, most of whom are surely very strong candidates, you still have a situation where the team itself is filled with some guys who fit one style and other guys who fit another. And none of them seem particularly thrilled to be a part of this organization right now.
So what's the plan? Maybe Stefanski didn't owe fans an explanation two years ago. Maybe he could just say he was "working hard to make the right decision" and that would have been all he owed them. Maybe last season he had the leverage to keep quiet and make any coaching decision he wanted. Not anymore. If Stefanski is going to stay, then he has to prove he has a game plan to remake this team. Because right now, if you look at the above collection of coaching names, it appears as if the Sixers are going to recycle everyone else's coaching lists, hire a coach who has no more affiliation to this roster and this organization than a tourist.
And, right about now, very few fans want Stefanski to be making this decision. Because there isn't a plan. Or if there is, the Sixers have done a great job of making random decisions that don't point towards the existence of a plan.
It doesn't seem the Sixers' fan base is asking for an instant fix. They're frustrated because there appears to be no direction. You can't get on board if the boat is tossing and turning and won't hold steady -- when that happens, you just want to get out of its way. So make it clear which way this ship is going. Make it known exactly what the plan is so there's a reason to pay attention and understand the direction of the franchise, even if that means the direction is down for at least one more season. Fans could live with that, if that was the plan.
This franchise needs some innovative, outside-the-box thinking. Of course Ed Snider, Peter Luukko, and Ed Stefanski could woo Doug Collins, or Dwane Casey, or Tom Thibodeau. And of course the Sixers could get from 27 wins to 35-40 wins. And guess what? The Wachovia Center would still be half-full. And there would still be no greatness in the team's future; just hanging around waiting for lightning to strike.
What's the plan? What's the team's culture? Is Stefanski in or out? If he's in, if he's staying, then he must have outlined a pretty nice plan of attack. One that, if shared, might help fans get over their current frustration with his previous decisions, one that might allow them to support the next decision.
If he's out, get it done, and give the reigns to someone with fresh thinking, someone who can see this franchise, and this roster, with clear vision.
Because it isn't a pretty picture.