Sixers’ Colangelo resigns; probe determines wife behind Twitter accounts

The Philadelphia 76ers announced Thursday that they have accepted the immediate resignation of president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo following an investigation into alleged Twitter activity by Colangelo and his wife.

Head coach Brett Brown will oversee basketball operations through the 2018 NBA Draft and thereafter until a new general manager is found.

The investigation, conducted by the outside firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, concluded that Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, was responsible for the existence of four anonymous Twitter accounts that had leaked information about the 76ers and been critical of the team’s coach and some players. The accounts also tweeted favorable opinions about Colangelo while denigrating Philadelphia’s former GM, Sam Hinkie.

Joel Embiid
76ers big man Joel Embiid was the target of criticism distributed through one of four Twitter accounts established by former GM Brian Colangelo’s wife. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Bottini admitted to establishing and operating the accounts, while the firm was unable to determine if Colangelo was aware of them before a May 22 inquiry by, which first reported about their existence. The firm noted, however, that its investigation was impeded by Bottini executing a factory reset of her phone before turning it over for forensic review.

Regardless, the investigation concluded 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.”

Sixers managing partner Josh Harris said in a statement the firm’s findings compromised Colangelo’s ability to lead the team moving forward.

“We find the situation to be disappointing for our entire organization,” Harris said. “We are determined to continue the tremendous progress we have made over the last two seasons in our quest to win an NBA Championship.”

According to an ESPN report, the 76ers ownership group, led by CEO Scott O’Neill, met Tuesday night to review the findings of the investigation, which concluded earlier that day.

When first approached the team about five Twitter accounts, Colangelo denied knowledge of all but one.

“Like many of my colleagues in sports, I have used social media as a means to keep up with the news,” Colangelo said in a statement after the initial report was published. “While I have never posted anything whatsoever on social media, I have used the @Phila1234567 Twitter account referenced in this story to monitor our industry and other current events. This storyline is disturbing to me on many levels, as I am not familiar with any of the other accounts that have been brought to my attention, nor do I know who is behind them or what their motives may be in using them.”

One of the accounts reportedly passed along private medical information about then-Sixers center Jahlil Okafor plus gossip about other players, including star big man Joel Embiid.

Colangelo won the NBA Executive of the Year Award in 2004-05 when he was with the Phoenix Suns and in 2006-07 when he was with the Toronto Raptors. One of the Twitter accounts in question took shots at Raptors president Masai Ujiri.

Colangelo, 53, joined the 76ers in April 2016, with his father, longtime NBA and USA Basketball executive Jerry Colangelo, also in a management role with the team at the time.

–Field Level Media