76ers, Bryan Colangelo agree to part ways following investigation on burner Twitter accounts: Things to know

The 76ers and Bryan Colangelo will no longer be working together. According to a press release sent out by the 76ers, the Philadelphia GM has agreed to part ways with the team. This is following an investigation into multiple burner Twitter accounts that revealed private team information and attacked media members.

Colangelo took over the 76ers in 2016 after the team parted ways with former GM Sam Hinkie. His departure from the team will reportedly be seen as a resignation and not a firing. Coach Brett Brown will take over the team's front office in an interim position.  The team sent out the following statement:

The Philadelphia 76ers organization has accepted the resignation of President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo, effective immediately.

We appreciate Bryan's many contributions during his time leading our basketball operations and thank him for the work he did in positioning the team for long-term success. An independent investigation by New York-based law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP was conducted into certain anonymous social media accounts that posted information concerning the club, personnel, and related topics (a statement of the findings is attached).

It has become clear Bryan's relationship with our team and his ability to lead the 76ers moving forward has been compromised. Recognizing the detrimental impact this matter had on the organization, Colangelo offered his resignation. We find the situation to be disappointing for our entire organization. We are determined to continue the tremendous progress we have made over the last two seasons in our quest to win an NBA Championship.

As such, we have appointed head coach Brett Brown to oversee basketball operations on an interim basis to lead our efforts in this important offseason. He will work closely with the rest of our talented basketball operations department in preparing for the upcoming NBA Draft and thereafter until a new General Manager is found. The search for a new General Manager will commence immediately. 

Here's everything you need to know about the end of one of the strangest sagas this NBA season.

What did the investigation find? 

All of this began when The Ringer released a story on May 29 suggesting that people close to Bryan Colangelo had leaked classified information and criticized some of the star players through anonymous Twitter accounts. After the story was released, an internal investigation was conducted by the team with help from an independent law firm.

The law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, investigated into the incident and concluded that the Twitter accounts belonged to Colangelo's wife Barbara Bottini. They could not prove that Colangelo had any knowledge of the Twitter accounts. The law firm concluded that Colangelo was "careless" in protecting that private information.

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP was engaged by the ownership of the Philadelphia 76ers to conduct an investigation into the issues arising from the publication of an article on May 29 identifying certain anonymous Twitter accounts that posted information concerning the club, its personnel and related topics. The article reported that the Twitter accounts may be connected in some way to Bryan Colangelo, the club's President of Basketball Operations.

We commenced our investigation on May 30 and it substantially concluded on June 5. With the assistance of expert forensic consultants, we collected extensive electronic evidence consisting of multiple electronic devices (iPhones, iPads, and other computer devices from multiple sources); conducted an extensive review of the contents of those devices, including text messages and other date; accessed numerous email accounts and reviewed the contents of those accounts; examined the account history of certain of the Twitter accounts; conducted witness interviews and undertook additional investigative tasks.

The investigation was led by Brad S. Karp, the Chairman of Paul, Weiss, Lorin L. Reisner, a Paul, Weiss senior partner and former Chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S.  Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, and Richard C. Tarlowe, a Paul, Weiss partner and former Chief of the Cybercrime Unit of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

The account names of the Twitter accounts under investigation are Eric jr, Still Balling, Enoughunkonwsources, and HonestAbe.

We investigated the following issues, among others: (1) who was responsible for establishing the Twitter accounts or posting messages on those accounts; (2) whether Mr. Colangelo was aware of the Twitter accounts before May 22, when there was a press inquiry concerning one of the subject accounts; and (3) whether Mr. Colangelo was the source of any sensitive, non-public information concerning the 76ers or its personnel communicated on the Twitter accounts.

As a result of our investigation, we do not believe that Mr. Colangelo established the Twitter accounts or posted content on those accounts. The evidence supports the conclusion that Ms. Barbara Bottini, Mr. Colangelo's wife, established the Twitter accounts and posted content on those accounts When interviewed, Ms. Bottini admitted establishing and operating the accounts. Forensic evidence corroborates her admissions.

We cannot conclude that Mr. Colangelo was aware of the Twitter accounts prior to the May 22 press inquiry. Mr. Colangelo denies any such awareness and we have not observed any forensic evidence establishing that he had knowledge of the Twitter accounts prior to that date. We note, however, that 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.

Our investigation revealed substantial evidence that Mr. Colangelo was the source of sensitive, non-public, club- related information contained in certain posts to the Twitter accounts. We believe that Mr. Colangelo was careless and in some instances reckless in failing to properly safeguard sensitive, non-public, club-related information in communications with individuals outside the 76ers organization.

How did Bryan Colangelo respond?

There was no way for Colangelo to save face throughout this incident. Private team information was made public and the responsibility for it fell on him. The most he can do is resign and hope that his reputation isn't tarnished to point where he can't land another job in the NBA. However, Colangelo chose to get very defensive over his role in the resignation and put out this statement:

While I am grateful that the independent investigation conducted by the 76ers has confirmed that I had no knowledge of or involvement in the Twitter activity conducted by my wife, I vigorously dispute the allegation that my conduct was in any way reckless. At no point did I ever purposefully or directly share any sensitive,  non-public, club related information with her.

Her actions were a seriously misguided effort to publicly defend and support me, and while I recognize how inappropriate these actions were, she acted independently and without my knowledge or consent. Further, the content she shared was filled with inaccuracies and conjectures which in no way represent my own views or opinions. While this was obviously a mistake, we are a family and we will work through this together.

Although I am not directly responsible for the actions, I regret this incident occurred and understand that it has become a distraction for the team. Therefore, the organization and I have mutually agreed to part ways.

Over the last two years, I have worked hard to help build a foundation for what I hope will soon be many championship seasons for the 76ers. I am grateful to team owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer for the opportunity they gave me to be part of such a great organization. I am saddened to have to leave under these circumstances.

Basketball has been a core part of my life since childhood. I love the game and all those who play and coach it. I want thank the many colleagues, players, and friends from around the league and elsewhere who have expressed their support and encouragement during this difficult and painful time for me and my family.

It doesn't sound like Colangelo is taking responsibility for the incident. It seems like he's just accepting his fate as a result of what happened. Unfortunately for him, no matter how hard he tries to deflect, this incident is forever connected to him, especially if he plans to continue his career in basketball as an exec.

What's next for Colangelo? 

Colangelo might not be with the team, but he does have a very strong supporter in his father Jerry Colangelo. For those wondering why Bryan's resignation took so long, it may have had to do with Jerry's involvement. 

The 76ers hired Jerry Colangelo in 2015 as chairman of basketball operations in response to the Sam Hinkie rebuilding project. He eventually hired his son Bryan and took a advisory role with the 76ers. Jerry clearly has a strong influence across the league, which is why he was hired in the first place. However, according to the PhillyVoice, Jerry tried to use his influence to keep Bryan's job with the 76ers.

"The delay was, in part, due to internal and external politics that ownership had to weigh. More than one person who spoke to PhillyVoice on the condition of anonymity suggested Jerry Colangelo tried to intervene on Bryan's behalf, threatening to interfere with club relationships around the league."

Despite this reported meddling, Jerry is expected to remain with the 76ers through the end of the year. 

With a powerful figure like Jerry in his corner, there's a possibility that Bryan could land another job in the NBA again. However, with how everything has fallen through, it's hard to see him getting back into a front office at any point soon. He's going to need to let time heal these wounds.

What's next for Brett Brown?

The 76ers are in a very interesting position with coach Brett Brown. They think very highly of him and recently gave him an extension through the end of the 2020-21 season following a successful playoff run. However, the Colangelo firing has earned him a front office position that he doesn't apparently want. Brown might be overseeing basketball operations on an interim basis, but he said during Thursday's press conference that he has "no interest" in permanently keeping that position. 

"I have no desire to get involved with the day-to-day stuff that a normal general manager needs to go through ... That's not my desire at all. Nor is it my belief that it's an effective way to move an NBA program forward."

What's next for the 76ers?

This means the 76ers are probably going to do a search for a replacement for Colangelo. One possibility is former Cavaliers GM David Griffin. He built a championship team in Cleveland, but wasn't kept past his contract. Griffin has the respect and connections across the league that Philadelphia would want in a replacement. He also has connections to LeBron James and there's an expectation across the league that the 76ers will make a run at signing him this offseason.

Philadelphia is in a very unique position where it can do this search with a full cupboard of talent. Most teams that have to search for a new front office are doing so because the previous group failed with the current roster. Philadelphia, on the other hand, has so much talent to offer and assets to use. It's a young team that can be molded into whatever vision the next front office executive wants it to be. That kind of freedom is rare.

Whatever decision the 76ers do make, it's extremely important they make a good hire here. Make the wrong move, and hire someone who flops, and that could ruin what has so far been incredible progress for the franchise. The 76ers, despite all this drama, are in a very good place right now. They just have to continue making the right decisions. 

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