With incumbent Rod Thorn expected to transition to a consultant role once his replacement is found, the Sixers were reportedly deciding between former Portland assistant general manager and ESPN analyst Tom Penn and former New Orleans general manager Jeff Bower. Penn was considered the frontrunner just weeks ago, but sources say his candidacy has taken a serious hit while Zarren and Bower continue to jockey for the job.
Zarren is an intriguing addition to the field of prospects; a widely-respected purveyor of advanced player statistics in the NBA who is one of the least-known yet most-influential members of the Celtics' front office group. A lifelong Celtics fan and season-ticket holder who began as an unpaid intern in 2003, Zarren -- a Harvard Law graduate who has also served as Celtics' team counsel -- has become known as the right-hand man of general manager Danny Ainge. He is a regular speaker at the annual MIT Sloan Conference where so many NBA executives explore new ways to analyze players and teams in a more accurate, efficient and in-depth manner.
* Rapid reaction: Zarren floats comfortably below the radar for most Celtics fans (you might have even sat near a stubble-bearded, satin jacket-clad gentleman in the Garden balcony and wondered why he was clutching an official box score after halftime), but his work with advanced stats has played a monster role in the team's success in recent years (most notably in helping to bring Kevin Garnett to Boston). While it seems virtually impossible to imagine Zarren missing a Boston home game -- let alone rooting for another team -- his basketball knowledge, combined with an ability to parse data that other teams are not even collecting (or at least are uncertain how to analyze) make him an extremely intriguing option to teams willing to think outside the box. Is the lure of his own project enough to sweep him away from a team he roots for so vehemently? Zarren is most certainly qualified and his tireless efforts haven't gone unnoticed by close observers of the team. Even Ainge has gone out of his way to compliment his support staff, including Zarren and fellow assistant GM Ryan McDonough, for their efforts in roster construction. Evaluating NBA talent takes a keen eye that data can't always offer, but there's no denying that Zarren's input -- both from what he sees and what the data tells him -- has helped the Celtics make more good decisions than bad ones. As if netting Andrew Bynum wasn't enough this summer, losing Zarren to an in-division rival like the 76ers would be a tough blow for the Celtics, particularly with how well he knows the strengths and weakness of this team. -- Chris Forsberg