Philadelphia 76’ers Culture Change Q & A’s: Julius Erving, Doug Collins, Lawrence Frank, Joshua Harris and Adam Aron
With Philly legendary columnist Stan Hochman in background, I listened intently to Doc
The Philadelphia 76’ers have won 4 straight early and sit at 5-2. 16 of the next 20 games are in front of the Wells Fargo Center crowd, so it’s not unrealistic to assume Philly will have one of the best records in the league after this stretch. Read that again. No one wants to get ahead of themselves, but the team is playing well. Andrew Toney returning to a Philadelphia arena for the first time in almost 30 was something I spoke about with Sixers ownership and Julius Erving. Ron Glover and I were shocked when Andrew was introduced. Ron had a feeling this would happen (I was pessimistic but had Christmas eyes when Ron mentioned the possibility) and right before the shocking appearance, I turned to Ron and said the Wells Fargo Center felt like the Spectrum. Culture change questions were also posed to Doug Collins and new Pistons coach Lawrence Frank chimed in about the Sixers home opener and also about former Net, the aforementioned Dr. J.
Joshua Harris (pregame before Toney was introduced)…
Harris has Philly ties…
MT: What I’m noticing more than anything and I know you all have to sell the franchise to fans but the culture has changed…you all had the viewing night vs. New Orleans the other night…what is the drive for you guys to make sure the tradition and everything is coming back to the city?
Joshua Harris: The tradition is actually a good point I should have brought up earlier. Dr. J. will be here. Moses Malone will be there and a number of other players will be here. One of the things we are trying to do is reengage…the Sixers are the third most winning team in the NBA (ever). Obviously a proud heritage and a lot f those guys weren’t engaged. So how do you..I don’t think Moses has been in the building for many years. So one of the things we’re doing is trying to appeal to the authentic basketball fans and bring some of those guys back. They’re responding to it. They’re responding to the buzz as well.
We’re selling the fans a great experience…a memorable experience.
Whether that’s having Will Smith in the building, whether that’s a great light show, whether that’s them winning a close game or fans seeing Dr. J…all of those things contribute to that. So we’re trying to do all that at once.
MT: Also, I tweeted Adam about the possibility of getting Andrew back. He said he’s been in touch with him. Is that a priority to change the way he may feel about the organization moving forward?
JH: Sure. Why wouldn’t we…I don’t know how he feels about the organization…but we’d like to have him feel good about the team for sure.
Philadelphia Head Coach, Doug Collins…
Collins’ commitment and enthusiasm is a huge factor in Sixers early success
MT: Coach what does it look like? Home opener…
Doug Collins: Well a lot of excitement. We had a good road trip. Now we get to come home and play before the home fans. I hope we come out tonight with a lot of energy and get off to a good start. We have a tough schedule of games here. Even though we’ve played five games, we’ve only played one back to back. We’ve had some days in between. Now we’re gonna get our first test with a back to back, a day off and games in three days. This will be our first test of playing that type of games.
MT: You have some former teammates being honored here tonight.
DC: Yeah. It means championships. It means great friendships. Bobby Jones and I go back to the ’72 Olympics (Doug looks off…you can see it still stings tremendously). We spent a lot of time together. We got our hearts broken over in Munich. Playing with Julius…I remember trading for Bobby, playing with Earl Cureton. Moses Malone…never had the chance to play with him. I played against him when he was with Houston. We had a great playoff series against them. Those guys have set the standard of excellence. That’s what we’re achieving to try to do. We would like to aspire to some point in time to have our guys have that kind of success. I think any time you can bring back former guys who set those kind of standards I think it’s great for our guys to see and for our fans to see.
MT: Culture change for the franchise.
DC: Somebody asked me this morning…last year we wanted to be relevant and what do we want to do now? At some point in time, we want to be important. In the top eight, you’re relevant…in the top four you’re important. We’ve got to find a way to take that next step. It’s hard. We know that but I think our guys are committed. They know nothing is easy. We’re gonna do whatever we can to be a better team this year.
Detroit Head Coach, Lawrence Frank…
10 years in New Jersey, Frank is looking to bring Detroit back to respectability
MT: What’s the challenge of coming in and facing a team with new ownership in home opener?
Lawrence Frank: Well, I don’t think the new ownership will be suiting up (everyone laughs) but I wish they were. No disrespect to the owners. For us, it’s been old hat. We’ve been the home opener for a couple of different teams. We should be experienced at this. Home openers are always exciting. Obviously for the home team. New ownership wants to make their impact known to Philadelphia and bring back some of the former legends. It’s a fun thing to watch as a fan of the game. I always get excited for home openers regardless if the cheers are for the opponents.
MT: Do you have a Dr J Story?
LF: Just watching him. I was with the Nets for ten years so there’s plenty of it. The guy I used to work for is here now…Rod Thorn…and Rod was an assistant coach when Dr J was there. I just remember Rod saying he was the most coachable superstar that you could imagine. Dr J would play 46 minutes and practice the next day. Obviously that was a great trade for the Nets when they got Julius but then unfortunately for the next they gave him away to Philly for what three million dollars. That was not a really good move (everyone laughs) but I guess you can’t look at the past.
Sixers CEO Adam Aron…
CEO Aron answers every tweet
MT: You are the man. The crowd was hype when Andrew’s name was called. I got chills. How did this happen?
Adam Aron: I called him on the phone. I told him all of Philadelphia loves Andrew Toney and we’d love to see him in the arena. I extended the invitation for him to come opening weekend and here he is. Of course we reached out to Dr. J and Moses Malone and Earl Cureton and Bobby Jones. When you see that much tradition and that much history here in the arena, it had to put a smile on every sport fan’s face.
MT: I stood up and clapped despite being the media. I’m appreciative you replied on twitter immediately after I asked you about bringing Andrew back last week. This was quick. You made this happen. It was great for us…those of our era…because we haven’t seen Andrew since he left here. It was a total shock. Thank you so much and I’m sure I speak for a multitude of Philly fans near and far.
Adam Aron: That’s a great thing to say. I’m so glad we made this happen. Thanks for your support.
I spoke with Doc for 1:30 Friday night and luckily, Buzz on Broad got it on film
MT: Doc, having Andrew in the building tonight was huge for the city. How did it happen?
Julius Erving: Adam (Aron)…the CEO…he reached out to Andrew and appealed to him to come and be a connection to the heritage because he’s part of the heritage. Andrew stated his conditions and he’s here.
MT: You’ve come back over the years but now it seems different. What’s it like with the different personality and new ownership?
Doc: For me, this worked out very well. I was on family vacation. We stopped here before going back to Atlanta. The schedule worked out well. I’ve been talking to Adam Aron for the better part of three months. We started talking during the lock out. We reached an understanding…
At this time you can hear his former teammate Earl Cureton sound the bell. “Come on Doc, stop taking up all the time.”
Doc: Some things don’t change! (throng laughs) So we reached an understanding that tonight is part of a bigger picture. I’m happy about that.