Monday, November 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Despite lengthy search, 76ers hired one of best available candidates

After an extended search the Sixers finally got their guy.

Despite lengthy search, 76ers hired one of best available candidates

Brett Brown. (Alastair Grant/AP)
Brett Brown. (Alastair Grant/AP)

After an extended search the Sixers finally got their guy.

Brett Brown has agreed to become the next head coach of the Sixers, according to the Inquirer’s Keith Pompey, and now the organization can finally focus on other issues, like the upcoming season.

Over the course of the summer-long search, the Sixers and new general manager Sam Hinkie missed out on countless candidates and angered various media members. In the end they got a guy that by all accounts was one of the best available, and could be a great fit for the franchise.

Heading into the offseason search, there were certain stipulations about the position that were understood. No successful, established NBA coach that could command offers from contenders was going to come spearhead the Sixers’ rebuilding movement. Universally popular coaching candidates like Phil Jackson, Stan Van Gundy, and someone like Doc Rivers, who would be entertaining offers, could be eliminated early. These guys weren’t going to take over a team set to tank.

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Thus, it became evident early that the search’s aim was assistants. For guys looking to break into the head coaching ranks, leading the Sixers’ return to relevancy would be a solid start that would no doubt open the door for other opportunities. The Sixers for their part, full of young and developing talent, wanted a coach that could grow along with the team, so an assistant made sense.

At the onset of the offseason, there were several assistants, including Brown, who appeared ready to make the transition from assistant to head coach status, and it seemed the Sixers were primed to pounce on one.

"Pouncing," however, is not likely how one would describe the team's coaching search. Instead, they let literally every other team in the league establish their coaching position before snatching up the one assistant that may be the most prepared and fit to run a franchise.

Jeff Hornacek (who was hired as the Suns’ head coach), Brian Shaw (Nuggets), Michael Malone (Kings), and Brown’s San Antonio associate Mike Budenholzer (Hawks) were all well-credentialed candidates who could have helped improve the Sixers’ current situation. However, Brown’s basketball background and wide-ranging experience with the game make him an especially intriguing, and promising fit for the team.

Unlike some of the other assistants that were signed this summer, Brown has international head coaching experience. He was a head coach in the NBL, Australia’s premier basketball league, for several seasons, and led the North Melbourne Giants to the league title in 1994, while being named Coach of the Year. In addition, Brown served as the head coach for the Australian Men’s National Team from 2009-2012, leading them to the quarterfinals of the London Olympics.

While some assistants need to become accustomed to the added level of responsibility and decision-making that comes with moving up the bench, Brown already has large-scale head coaching experience and is aware of all that it encompasses. This experience, although outside of the NBA, should help mollify Brown’s move to head coach and allow him to focus his energy on other areas rather than his own readiness.

Brown has also studied the game under some of the best. While in high school, Brown learned the game under his father, New England Basketball Hall of Fame coach, Bob Brown. He then graduated on to the tutelage of another Hall-of-Famer in Rick Pitino.

“He is as bright a young coach as I’ve seen come along in quite some time,” Pitino, who coached Brown at Boston University, stated recently.

Brown’s entire tenure in the NBA up until being hired by the Sixers was spent in one of the league’s most exalted franchises in San Antonio, learning the game from one of the most dignified and respected coaches of all time in Greg Popovich.

There probably isn’t a better place for a budding basketball coach to serve as an understudy and pick up some tricks of the trade. He was around for all four of San Antonio’s title teams, basically accomplishing all you can as an assistant. The pedigrees of a coach’s mentors aren’t always directly linked to the understudy’s success, but it is safe to say that Brown has been properly prepared for his present opportunity.

Lastly, Brown’s experience with player development likely made him a top target for the Sixers’ search, and will be a good fit with the franchise as it is currently constructed. The Sixers are looking at a lengthy rebuilding process that will require the development of a plethora of young players and picks. With players like Arnett Moultrie, Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel, the Sixers already have a lot of young talent, and will be looking to add much more in the coming seasons.

Brown served as the director of player development for five seasons in San Antonio. While in this role, he presided over the progress of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili as they developed into all-stars. No doubt Hinkie hopes Brown can have similar success with the Sixers’ youth.

Hinkie and the Sixers certainly took their time in selecting the team’s next head coach. While they missed out on some qualified candidates and ruffled the feathers of some fans, in the end they got a guy that is experienced and ready for an opportunity.

“I think [Brett’s] got the full body of work,” Pitino said, continuing to show respect for his former player. “I hope he gets the right situation.”

Hopefully this is it.

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