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From Philly to the ‘Gong: Why former 76ers boss Colangelo is restarting career at Hawks

He was awarded NBA executive of the year for his Raptors rebuild a few years later. And then he drafted Australia’s best NBA export – Ben Simmons – while in charge of the 76ers.

But during his time in Philadelphia, Colangelo was caught up in a bizarre Twitter “burner” account scandal. It led to his resignation. Almost simultaneously, he disappeared from the public eye.

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons.

Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons.Credit:AP

At the time, an investigation by American sports and pop culture website The Ringer revealed five Twitter accounts that were critical of 76ers players, other NBA executives and released sensitive team information. Colangelo’s wife admitted to running three of the accounts.

In the two years since, Colangelo has scarcely spoken publicly about the incident. When he spoke to the Herald from Arizona, he knew it was the elephant in the room.

“I haven’t addressed it very much over the course of the last two years. I have stayed very much under the radar on the topic because it’s a sensitive topic, for a lot of reasons,” Colangelo said.

“Family, personal, professional, or otherwise. I have to say I was dealt a pretty big blow, personally and professionally. And it’s been a difficult time dealing with the fallout. I was completely blindsided by the accusation and the storyline of the controversy.”

Once Colangelo was absolved of direct involvement in the scandal, he stepped away from the spotlight.

It was a difficult decision and a difficult time for me.

Bryan Colangelo

“Once that investigation was completed and I was absolved, I felt the appropriate thing to do – in conjunction with ownership there in Philly – was to mutually walk away.

“It was a difficult decision and a difficult time for me. But I have to say, it was a very, very difficult time for my family. Because of some of the reasons that came to light, it was something I thought was important not to talk about, quite frankly. And we’re still dealing with that.

“But the No.1 thing I thought needed to happen was trying to stay positive; preserve and love my family, protect their interests, emotionally or otherwise. And frankly, two years on, it’s gone. It’s in the past and I’m ready to move on.”

Professionally, Colangelo is moving on by restarting his career as a leading front office executive in Wollongong.

The 55-year-old is both an equity partner and an advisor for the Hawks. He believes his experience in rebuilding NBA franchises from the ground up will aid the foundation club as it strives to climb out of the NBL cellar.

“No one wants to get ahead of themselves when it comes to promising immediate results but I can tell you that in my own history I’ve been fortunate to be in rebuilding situations and come out of it on the other end with some fairly successful results,” he said.

“In Phoenix, we did it a couple of different times. We turned some players over, traded some away, moved some contract money out on one direction and opened up some cap flexibility.

“We traded away Stephon Marbury to the Knicks and cleared cap space for the following year. That next year we signed a guy named Steve Nash. He turned out to be a pretty good signing.

“When we wanted to rebuild at that particular moment, he was the targeted free agent and we got him. We turned things around pretty dramatically, just in one off-season.”

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With NBL free agency around the corner, Colangelo’s first job is to find the Hawks a new coach. He wants that coach to be in charge of the players on court and the recruitment off it, a system he believes can work in the NBL despite a lack of success in the NBA.

“If we find the right person to coach the team, that person should also be on top of the personnel in a big way,” he said.

“We want to find someone in that position who can manage the decision-making from a basketball standpoint. Someone who knows the pool of Australian players, someone that can put together what we will call a sustainable, winning core of players that are very important.

“The imported players will come and go and they will change from time to time. But those Australian players, who are such a vital part of the success of your team in the NBL, that needs to be something that I believe a coach has a great feel for and a great understanding of.”

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