Brett Brown: Can He Master This Moment?
Updated: Sep 18, 2022
The date is May 10, 2013. The number one song in the US is “Just Give Me a Reason,” by Pink and Nate Ruess. Norris Cole scored 18 points to lift Lebron James and his dominant Miami Heat team over Joakim Noah and the Chicago Bulls. The Philadelphia 76ers just hired a new General Manager, Sam Hinkie, intending for him to build an elite team: one of the most difficult tasks possible in the NBA. To create a championship team you need to hit on your draft picks, attract free agents, make smart trades, and build team chemistry. Hinkie inherited a below-average Sixers roster, whose most talented players included Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday, and Thaddeus Young. Knowing that they would never be able to make a deep playoff run, he decided to revamp his team through the NBA draft over several years, since it is unheard of to strike gold on every draft pick. Hinkie also knew he needed a coach for this process who would support a tanking team. Enter Brett Brown.
Brett Brown has been around basketball his whole life. Playing high school basketball where his father was the coach, he went on to play college basketball at Boston University. After Brown’s playing career, he transitioned to coaching, where he got the opportunity to be one of the assistant coaches for the San Antonio Spurs, under all-time great Head Coach Gregg Popovich. All of this shows that Brown was qualified for the 76ers head coach position on paper, but he didn’t measure up to his coaching colleagues as he has been thrust into his prominent position on Philadelphia's promising team.
Different coaches evidently use very different styles, but no one seems to be more opposite to Brett Brown than Chicago Bulls Head Coach, Phil Jackson. In The Last Dance, a 10-part docuseries, Jackson showed his method of how to reach each player, giving them the opportunity to succeed, and created a structure in which they could win as a team. Key changes like focusing on the defense and implementing the Triangle Offense to lower Michael Jordan’s points, ultimately strengthened the team. Additionally, in the 1995-1996 season, Jackson got a hold of Dennis Rodman and put a leash on him. Jackson’s treatment of Rodman, his team’s “rebounding machine”, when the player skipped town to make an appearance with Hulk Hogan on a WWE show before Game 4 of the 1998 NBA Finals perfectly exemplified Jackson’s coaching style. Before Game 4 of the 1998 NBA Finals, Rodman skipped town to make an appearance with Hulk Hogan on a WWE show. However, there was no punishment from Jackson. At the practice directly before the crucial game, Jackson addressed Rodman in front of the team, and was quoted as saying, “He brought us fame and disreputation. We were dishonored.” Rodman then played in Game 4, finishing with 6 points and 14 rebounds, including two clutch free throws with 43 seconds left that helped secure a Bulls win. While Jackson’s methods have proved to be successful, Brett Brown showed doubt as he has had trouble helping superstars reach their full potential and was not an effective leader with the 76ers. His style and stumbles have left fans wondering if superstars on the 76ers, like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, had faith in their coach. Did the team have buy-in? Brown was once asked about his coaching philosophy and he replied: “I am constantly asking WMI, WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT?”
All-Star Point Guard Ben Simmons has been criticized his whole career for not having a jump shot. Most coaches would ensure that their player was working on his jump shot and build his confidence to use it consistently in games, but Brett Brown let Simmons go four seasons without developing this much-needed shot. Some felt hopeful when a few off-seasons went by during Simmons’ young career, where videos surfaced of Simmons working on his shot. Fake news? When the season arrived we saw that those videos were not an accurate representation of Simmons’ shot development. Brett Brown needed to motivate this good player to become a great player. Or had he hoped that Michael Jordan’s competitive spirit documented in The Last Dance will educate Simmons?
Another of Brown’s liabilities was his leadership with the 76ers, which is evident in the team’s reaction to his coaching techniques. Miami Heat all-star shooting guard Jimmy Butler, who endured a brief stint with the 76ers last season, had this to say about Brett Brown: “It was so different on any given day; me as a person, a player, I didn’t know who ... was in charge.” Brown touts that he wants his players to be the best version of themselves. But being a thoughtful, terrific guy is not going to build champions. WMI?
There are many factors that need to align to win an NBA championship. Some of these include team chemistry, desire and drive, ego management, star power, talent, and experience. All of this is managed by the coach. The 76ers need a coach who can master this moment. Brett Brown was the perfect person to lead the 76ers during the process, but the process is over. The 76ers are a championship contender and they need a coach who can push them as players to their full potential. As the clock ticked and the possibility of a championship trophy grew closer, it became more clear that Brett Brown would not be the coach to lead his team to victory for the city of Philadelphia. On Monday, August 24, he was fired after seven seasons.