07-25-2001, 03:43 PM
Croce stepping down as president of 76ers
By ROB MAADDI
AP Sports Writer
July 25, 2001
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Pat Croce, who wanted to be chief executive officer of the company that owns the Philadelphia 76ers, will remain with the team as a consultant, minority owner and board member.
Croce, the 76ers' president for the last five years, said he hopes to use the new position to start his own consulting business, spend more time giving motivational speeches and, perhaps, teach a college course.
At a news conference Wednesday, Croce cited a list of successes on and off the court, saying the only thing he didn't accomplish as president was winning a championship.
``I wanted to win a championship here. I wanted a parade,'' Croce said. ``We achieved all but one of those goals. Almost, almost. The parade is still a dream, but there is no deadline on dreams.''
Ed Snider, minority owner of Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the team, announced Croce's new duties and the return of coach Larry Brown. The agreement with Croce is for one year.
After his first meeting with Snider, Croce said he only would return if he were to become CEO of Comcast-Spectacor. Snider, who as chairman of the Flyers and Sixers handles those responsibilities, immediately said that was ``not a viable option.''
Croce then backed off the statements, and met again with Snider and Brian Roberts, majority owner of Comcast-Spectacor.
The Sixers won't replace Croce, who appears to have lost a power struggle with Snider.
Croce, who never had a written contract as Sixers president, owns nearly 2.5 percent of Comcast-Spectacor. All along, he maintained that he wanted more responsibility and a new challenge.
As CEO of Comcast-Spectacor, Croce would have been responsible for overseeing the Flyers, the Sixers, operations of the First Union Center and First Union Spectrum and some of the communication giant's other businesses.
Comcast-Spectacor also owns the AHL's Philadelphia Phantoms, three minor-league baseball teams in Maryland that are affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles and the Comcast SportsNet regional sports cable network.
Croce, a former physical therapist for the Sixers and conditioning coach for the Flyers, helped turn the Sixers from a laughingstock franchise into the Eastern Conference champions in five years.
He presided over the draft that brought Allen Iverson to the Sixers in 1996 and persuaded Brown to coach the team a year later. His toughest task was making sure the contentious relationship between the star player and coach didn't reach a breaking point.
It worked. Iverson was the NBA's MVP and Brown won coach of the year honors as the 76ers reached the NBA Finals last season.
Early in the summer, there was speculation that Croce was contemplating not returning to the Sixers at all because of controversy surrounding his family.
Croce's brother Vincent was fired from his job at Independence Blue Cross last month for engaging in ``activities that violated his responsibilities and trust.''
Another Croce brother, John, resigned as a Sixers trainer in January after allegedly being caught stealing money from Iverson's pants in the locker room.
Croce said he never wanted to leave the team. He just didn't want to return in the same capacity.
``I want to grow, I want to keep learning,'' he said two weeks ago.