Now that we know what we know, the question arises:
What if we knew all along that they were her accounts, not his? What if Bryan Colangelo had singled out Barbara Bottini from the outset? What if the initial report had allowed for the possibility that Colangelo did not run the accounts — a likelihood that was obvious from the outset?
Would that have been enough to convince us that he was an innocent victim of his wife’s overzealous Twitter defense of her man? Would that have convinced us that he was ignorant of the accounts’ existence? That he never knowingly shared sensitive information with her?
Would that have saved him, even after the investigating law firm determined that he had been “reckless” and “careless”? Would it have salvaged the Sixers’ trust in him?
You want to say yes.
But the answer is no.
Not when three of the damaging accounts immediately went dark when The Ringer alerted Colangelo to a fourth damaging account (as well as a fifth, benign account, which he acknowledged was his).
Would the Sixers players, who indicated their uneasiness to continue to work for a man connected with accounts that publicly criticized players, feel differently? Would future free agents, such as LeBron James, and their handlers trust the Processor in Chief?
Not after, when hired, he pledged transparency and availability, spent two years hiding truths from the public and lying by omission. Not after nepotism got him the job — his father, Jerry, took over the team in 2015, then plucked Bryan, twice a failure elsewhere, from the NBA scrap heap. Not after his reign of dismissiveness and aloofness that mirrored the tone-deaf behavior of his deposed and overmatched predecessor, Sam Hinkie.
And, certainly, not if she’d wiped her phone.
“Our investigation was limited and impeded by certain actions taken by Ms. Bottini, including her decision to delete the contents of her iPhone by executing a factory reset of the device prior to surrendering it for forensic review.”
That sentence, from the statement issued by the investigating firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, was the single most damning revelation in the whole, er, process. This destruction of evidence, this obstruction of justice, impugned Colangelo more than anything else that came to light.
Who knows exactly what she sought to hide? Maybe it was evidence that Colangelo knew all along. Maybe, in a fit of pique, he had recklessly messaged her sensitive information. Maybe they’d talked trash about Josh Harris and Brett Brown. Maybe she wanted to keep her quiche recipe a secret.
Regardless, this action painted the pair in the worst light. Remember how Tom Brady sealed his fate when he destroyed his phone rather than submit it as evidence in Deflategate? Babs essentially did the same thing.
(This law firm must get sick of cellphone shenanigans. It also investigated that scandal for the NFL.)
It’s important to note that, amid Colangelo’s protestations, investigators said that they could not prove Colangelo knew about the accounts, but they never said they proved Colangelo didn’t know.
What they did prove was that Colangelo didn’t run the accounts, which leads us to what has been criminally underemphasized: the reporting by Ringer.com. A source that remains anonymous to the writer skewed everyone’s perspective with this incorrect evaluation:
” ‘To me, there is no conceivable world where that is not Bryan Colangelo, himself,’ the tipster told me. ‘Not his wife, not his son, not his dad.'”
This assertion goes unchallenged in the piece, despite bizarre tweets that clearly indicate the tweeter would be Bottini, not Colangelo. One account criticizes the uniforms of the Sixers’ G-League affiliate. If Colangelo didn’t like the uniforms, he could get them changed. He wouldn’t whine about it on Twitter.
And, wouldn’t you know, within 24 hours of publication, a connection between the accounts and Colangelo’s wife was established by an assortment of unsophisticated web sleuths.
To review: An unsubstantiated quote from a source unknown to the writer distracted readers, and apparently the writer, from an obvious, and ultimately correct, conclusion. It was her, not him.
Again: Would that have made a difference? Perhaps. At least, until the couple incriminated themselves.
The entire saga, which began May 29, seems to have taken months. None of us feels better for it. We wallowed in palpable, morbid glee, witnesses to a real-time snuff tape of a decorated executive’s career.
We pettily accused Colangelo of insecurities he never displayed. We largely ignored his considerable achievements: The team improved by 18 games in his first season, then by 24 more in his second, with a playoff series win.
But none of that could save him..
Not after her obstruction became a smoking gun. The Sixers had to assume that whatever information that phone contained incriminated Bryan beyond any doubt, reasonable or otherwise.
They could never trust him again.
Neither can anyone else.