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to use its official name offers guidance to companies with the help of Seth Berger

Time:2019-01-12 05:54Shoes websites Click:

nba Interview owners Spor Philadelphia 76ers

Process to progress: Why the Philadelphia 76ers owners are feeling buoyant

“I always think to understand where you are, it’s helpful to understand where you were,” says Scott O’Neil, chief executive of Harris Blitzer Sport and Entertainment (HBSE). “And we went through what some might argue is the most aggressive rebuilding process maybe in the history of sport. And it seems to be bearing fruit even quicker than we’d hoped.”

Formed in September, HBSE represents the sports ownership interests of private equity investors Josh Harris and David Blitzer, which include the National Hockey League’s (NHL) New Jersey Devils and their Prudential Center home, and the team whose story O’Neil is relating: the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

O’Neil, a former NBA and Madison Square Garden Sports executive who was brought in to lead the 76ers in 2013, is speaking as the team prepare for an appearance in the 2018 NBA London game against the high-flying Boston Celtics. Not long ago, it would have been a technical mismatch. Back in 2013, shortly after the Harris-Blitzer takeover, there began what came to be known as ‘The Process’.

“This is our fifth season together, all of us, and when we came in they had just made what’s widely regarded as a really bad trade in basketball,” O’Neil recalls. “They kind of gutted their roster of draft picks and talent for one star [the injury-stricken Andrew Bynum] that didn’t end up playing.”

The assessment of the owners and the management, as 76ers president Chris Heck explains, was that the playing staff was in no condition to make a realistic championship challenge any time soon. A more drastic approach was needed to make any meaningful improvement.

 to use its official name offers guidance to companies with the help of Seth Berger

Joel Embiid's frequent injuries since his 2014 rookie season had previously stalled the team’s advance

“The model was always, ‘make the play-offs, make the play-offs’,” adds Heck. “But the truth is, there are two or three teams that are elite and there are teams that get stuck in the middle.”

Deciding that collecting the best college and high school talent in the draft was the quickest route to an elite roster, the team began trading experienced players for first-round draft picks, scooping up overlooked development talent and generally eschewing short-term competitiveness in favour of the long-term view. And the weighting of the draft system would mean weak performances one season would provide opportunities in the next.

To say that approach has demanded patience would be an understatement. The Sixers went down from a low base, and were soon consistently among the very worst performers in the NBA. They posted a 26-game losing streak in 2013/14, and lost 28 games in a row between the end of the 2014/15 regular season and the start of 2015/16.

Inevitably, those statistics produced some turbulence. Other owners in the NBA were reportedly not enamoured with what was going on in Pennsylvania, believing it to be against the spirit of the league set-up. 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie, one of the architects of the project, stepped down in 2016 as the pressure grew.

But commitment to the concept endured, with ‘trust the process’ becoming a local maxim. Now, as O’Neil says, ‘The Process’ is showing real progress. The Sixers arrive in London with an even record and a decent chance of making the play-offs for the first time since 2012. Adding sparkle to those promising performances are two first-round draft picks: Cameroon’s Joel Embiid, whose frequent injuries since his 2014 rookie season had previously stalled the team’s advance, and Australia’s Ben Simmons, who was chosen first overall in the 2016 draft.

The same boldness has been applied to recruitment off the court. O’Neil says that Harris, Blitzer and their executives had “aspirations to build a world class organisation, and that always starts with people, people, people”. By his reckoning, there are now “a dozen people in our organisation that will go on to run clubs”, but putting that executive talent together involved “a total reset”.

“Let’s say we have 500 employees,” says Hugh Weber, the president of HBSE, as well as of the New Jersey Devils and the Prudential Center. “485 of them have been hired in the last four years. That gives you an idea.”

O’Neil says: “Josh and David, on the business side, said, ‘What resources do you need? We want to be the best-run organisation in the world. What do you need to do it?’”

Those new additions have made a considerable impact. Remarkably, even as the team tanked, business was booming: the 76ers led the league in growth across ticket, sponsorship and merchandise sales, as well as local TV ratings. Partnership revenue has risen 30 per cent a year for four years, with 90 per cent renewal rates. Season ticket membership sales have trebled in three years to a franchise record of 14,000.

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