Sixers Introduce Brown, Look to the Future


May 12, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown (left) instructs point guard Tony Parker (9) during the third quarter in game four of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Spurs 97-87 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In what could only be described as the polar opposite of last year’s circus-like atmosphere for the arrival of Andrew Bynum, a much more subdued setting was the scene for the franchise’s introduction of new head coach Brett Brown. As members of the 76ers’ management group and members of the media filled the press room at the Wells Fargo Center, they would be making the first rounds of judgments on the man brought in to lead the team back towards contention. At this point, I have already stated my opinion on the hire, signing off on Brown as a viable candidate that fits the team’s unique, albeit bleak in the short-term, situation. However, there is certainly something to be said for how someone presents himself when making his first appearance in a position as important as head coach. I’m certain it will not take too long for Brown to feel, first hand, the pressure by the Philadelphia media, but for now it was his first chance to make an impression on the fanbase, his new bosses, and the press.

Unlike situations where a former head coach, be it on the NBA or the NCAA level, is being introduced an assistant coach, even for a team as successful as the Spurs, are rarely heard from. Because of this, Brown’s first media availability would be met with an amplified level of scrutiny. As far as things went for the now-24th coach in franchise history, I would say he passed the eye-test (or ear test).

On first impression, Brown appears to be a coach’s coach. Whether it was him waxing poetically about the coaches who have influenced him, including his father who is a member of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, or his recollection of the Spurs’ game 6 loss to the Heat, it is easy to see that basketball is in Brown’s blood. Rather than humoring everyone with the scripted ‘bring this rich franchise back to glory days’ spiel, Brown’s introduction was much more of a diagnosis of the current state of the team, while using experiences from the past to justify his approach. It was clear, painfully at times, that Brown valued his position within the Spurs organization and the inner conflict with taking the position in Philadelphia was evident. Brown even mentioned their being ‘hesitation’ when it finally came down to pulling the trigger and agreeing to a deal. However, a winning attitude and commitment (not to mention a fully guaranteed 4-year contract) was the deciding factor in the end. It can be concerning to hear a coach mention hesitancy when it comes to taking a new position, the Philadelphia fanbase recently went through it with Chip Kelly leaving Oregon. Yet to have a coach whose thirst for winning and love for basketball is evident in every sentence has to relieve any concerns regarding Brown’s commitment.

A very refreshing, honestly surprising feature of Brown’s press conference was an across-the-board attitude that this roster is in rebuild mode. At times, when a new coach is hired, it can be almost an insult to the fans when he sits at the podium and talks about his desire to win right away, despite an abysmal roster. Fans, especially those in this city, are not stupid. If anything, a statement like that from a head coach can put them in bad shape with the fan base before he even coaches a game. Rather than dance around the roster shortcomings, Brown approached the team’s situation head-on. He rattled through some of the players on the current roster, heaping praise on players like Thaddeus Young, and rattling off a few redeeming qualities of some of the other members of the team. Yet, even having spent only a few hours in team facilities, Brown expressed his desired improvements that will hopefully be taking place over the next few seasons.

One of my favorite things that Brown harped upon in his availability was accountability. With how bad things have gotten with last year’s roster, it seemed as if there were no consequences for the endless string of mistakes that littered the team’s second half of the season. Considering Doug Collins openly admitted mailing it in since Christmas, it is easy to see why players like Nick Young and Dorell Wright kept getting playing time, only to shoot every possession without ever passing the ball. Whenever the team’s 2013-2014 roster ends up shaking out, odds are there will be very few players with extended stays in the league. If Brown is able to bring the sort of intensity and instill a sense of accountability in such a young roster, the Sixers have a chance to ferment a culture that has been absent for too long. In fact, Brown approached that topic aggressively.

"“I think there are pieces there that we can build around, and I think there is a toughness that the city almost demands. I really look forward to seeing the young guys that we are going to try and bring along.”"

Brown rarely minced words and came across as a refreshing, no-nonsense coaching candidate that 76ers fans should respond to well.  With that said, barring the team trading off many more pieces (which is still a valid possibility), the hard part of this rebuild starts now. The 76ers made Brown their choice because they feel he has what it takes to build up a roster and lead a culture change. The guaranteed contract for Brown hopefully ensures that 1-2 years of abysmal records, something he is not used to being around, does not drain his intensity and blur his vision for this team. Obviously, he was brought in to lead a team and be the face of the organization from a coaching standpoint. However, I imagine that, at least for the first couple years, the responsibilities that he handled in San Antonio (player development and skill improvement) will play a big role in whether or not he is successful. Fortunately, albeit on the international level, Brown has held down head coaching positions and is no stranger to leading men into competition. But, at least in the near future, everyone on the 76ers roster has to improve drastically as a player and a competitor and Brown should have his hands full trying to turn things around.

What is promising is that, by acknowledging the difficulty and severity of the rebuild, Brown appears ready to put in the necessary work to reap the benefits. He is going to be going from working with some of the best players in the world on the San Antonio Spurs, to a roster that, save for their two first-round draft picks in 2013, might not have a player worthy of being on a championship team. There will have to be a great deal of persistence, patience, and communication for some of the team’s young players to achieve their potential and some of their complimentary players to realize how they are best served. Some players on the roster will respond well, some probably will respond poorly. In the past, Brown had Gregg Popovich to lay down the law if a player didn’t take to his teachings. In this new setting, Brown will have to walk the line between motivator, and disciplinarian. It is uncertain who will be joining Brown’s initial coaching staff, as assistants Michael Curry, Aaron McKie, and Jeff Capel, despite remaining under contract, have yet to commit either way. Regardless of their decision, this is Brown’s ship to steer and, now that all the moving and shaking of the offseason is almost over, it is time to start the suffering of the long road back to prominence. There are the makings of a promising framework to work with, now it is time to see if the organization has the savvy to push the right buttons when necessary and jump at any opportunity presented to them.

One of Brown’s final snippets of his introduction painted things in a positive, albeit arduous road back.

"“Can you imagine if we can get this thing right? If we can get this right with the culture and the history that this city has and the pride and the toughness that this city has, that is very alluring. It’s tempting. . . . I think this a very high calculated chance.”"

The new head coach sounds like he’s buying in to the analytic approach by general manager Sam Hinkie on why he chose to make the leap and coach the 76ers. I don’t know if Brown truly can imagine what would happen if the 76ers do get this right. Let’s hope they do, and we can show Brown he was underestimating just how special that would be.

Disclaimer: Quotes Courtesy of Comcast Sportsnet Broadcast of Press Conference