The Sixers have played over half a season’s worth of games under new head coach Brett Brown, and while the sample size is still small, it has provided ample opportunity to get an idea of what Brown is all about as a coach.
After 48 games in a single season (the Sixers are currently 15-33), coaching techniques and tendencies begin to show. Substitution patterns, in-game adjustment abilities, and personal preferences emerge, and you can begin to paint a fuller picture of a coach and all that encapsulates him.
Such a picture is far from complete of course, as it may take a coach several seasons or situations before he fully hits his stride. But if a coach can be fired after only five games (sorry, Mike Brown), then trends can be traced after a half-season’s worth of work.
The Sixers’ situation this season is slightly different, as Brown has certainly had to alter his approach to meet his team’s level of talent, which is amongst the lowest in the league. Brown assessed his team before the season started as having “six NBA players and a bunch of guys who are fighting for spots and want to be seen and need opportunity;” not exactly the description of a team teeming with talent.
But buried within the obvious adjustments he has had to make and the style he has employed to best fit the inexperienced Sixers this season are some discernable trends that are rooted in Brown’s coaching philosophy that will work to characterize and stay with the Sixers well past this struggle of a season.
A recent interview with Brown by NBA writer Zach Lowe from Grantland added some insight into what aspects of Brown’s coaching approach we have seen this season that we will continue to see down the line, including the pace with which the team plays, an emphasis on offense over defense, and an embracement of the long ball.
“If [you] looked at the programs I have come from, right off the bat, there’s common ground. Whether it’s pace, or the interest in the 3-point line, or anything to do with probably more offense than defense,” Brown stated to Lowe, describing three areas that are obviously characteristic of his coaching style, rather than just a situational approach to this season’s Sixers.
Brett Brown wants his team to play fast and shoot threes. In his system, defense - in a way - is an afterthought, and that philosophy isn’t going to change when the Sixers finally add more talent to the team.
“I put a premium on fitness to our guys. I asked them to come in with career-best fitness levels, and when you do that, we’re going to run at what I hope is the fastest pace you’ve ever run at,” Brown told Lowe.
“Pace and pass, those are the governing things we talk about on offense. You’re always in attack mode, always trying to play downhill,” he continued, while acknowledging that the pace likely has a negative impact on the defensive end.
“I think I misjudged the repercussions of the pace, even though I’m extremely proud of that pace. If I had to do it again, I’d do it every time over.”
Brown’s emphasis on pace over all and its negative impact on the defensive end have been evident all season, as the Sixers are dead last in the league in opponent points allowed per game while leading the league in pace with 102 possessions per game.
Maybe Brett Brown doesn’t believe in the common mantra that defense wins championships.
He does believe in the expanding importance of the three-point shot in today’s game however.
“You have to embrace the three. We’ve embraced it as much as anybody, I hope," Brown said. "We’ve encouraged Spencer [Hawes] and Thaddeus [Young] — dragged them out and spaced the floor. I think the future of the game is the Ryan Anderson type. One of your bigs has to be able to do that.”
In other words, going forward, don’t expect the Sixers’ centers and forwards (whoever they may be) to abandon the three-point attempts they have embraced this season.
Considering the talent of the team, it would be unfair to judge Brett Brown based off of the results of this singular season. His approach to the season so far, however, has provided us with some insight into his coaching philosophy and provided us with an idea of what to expect from the franchise on the floor in the future.