Brett Brown (Image c/o Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
When Brett Brown was lured away from the San Antonio Spurs in August of 2013 to become the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, many considered it a coup for GM Sam Hinkie. Brown came to the Sixers from a program that was an established winner and as a student of one of the best coaches in the game, legendary Gregg Popovich. The words “player development” and “championship pedigree” were thrown around almost daily in the lead-up to the 2013-14 season.
Brown came to a team that was in the first stages of a total and complete rebuild, a franchise that wasn’t expected to be competitive for years to come. And as such, Brown received a free pass for that first season. No one expected him to win and most fans didn’t even want him to win. It was a rare situation where a head coach could pretty much write off an entire season and not have to worry about keeping his job.
We all know how that first season went: the 19-63 record, the 26-game losing streak, the revolving door of 10 day contracts and D-League players. All the while fans kept the faith in Brown and didn’t judge him to harshly, even in the normally fanatical Philadelphia sports media. Better times were ahead fans were told. The best is yet to come.
As of this writing, the Sixers are 0-10, the only winless team left in the NBA. Tank 2.0 is well underway and fans are once again being told to be patient. Joel Embiid is waiting in the wings, Michael Carter-Williams is back, Nerlens Noel is on the court and showing his defensive promise and fans are holding tight, waiting for better times ahead.
But should those better times include Brett Brown?
At this point Brown has shown that he knows how to lose and that’s pretty much it. Yes, it might be unfair to judge him given the roster he has at his disposal, but there are signs that, for all his time spent in San Antonio, Brown might still have a lot to learn about being a head coach.
After getting humiliated by the Dallas Mavericks in a 53-point loss, the Sixers needed maybe not a win against the Houston Rockets last Friday, but at least a solid performance that would help this young team to again hold their heads up high. But instead of starting MCW, Noel and K.J. McDaniels, his starting lineup was Tony Wroten, Hollis Thompson, Brandon Davies, Henry Sims and Luc Mbah a Moute.
Not a group of players that are going to put the fear of God into any team.
It’s amazing, given that lineup, that the Sixers almost won that game. Carter-Williams and Noel did come in off the bench and Wroten performed well enough, scoring 19 points on the night. The Sixers were up 87-84 with just under a minute to play when MCW fouled James Harden. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Brown was called for a technical when he argued the call and then kicked the ball.
Yes, kicked the ball. With his winless team team up by three.
On Monday the Sixers travelled to San Antonio for a date with the NBA Champion Spurs. Again, instead of starting Carter-Williams, Noel and McDaniels, he started the same lineup from the Houston game.
How does that make any sense?
I’ll give him MCW, since he still has some rust that needs to come off and working him back in slowly is probably a good idea. But there is no valid reason why Noel and McDaniels shouldn’t be starting every game. At least, not if you want to be competitive and get a win every once in a while.
Add in some questionable plays, odd personnel choices during games and a general feeling that Brown may have drank the Kool-Aid when it comes to tanking and you have a coach that might not be a good fit for the Sixers long-term.
Brett Brown is in the second year of a four-year contract. Odds are that the Sixers are not going to be even close to a playoff team when his contract is up. His ultimate fate, like everything else in regards to the Sixers, rests with Sam Hinkie. If Hinkie wants him back, Brown will get an extension and stay with the team. If Hinkie decides another direction is needed, Brown will be shown the door, plain and simple.
Is Brett Brown the coach that can take the Sixers to the finals? That’s tough to say. But if the last week is any indication, the answer is not nearly as clear as many fans thought.