IT WAS A reflective week for 76ers coach Brett Brown as he returned to his roots for the first time as an NBA head coach. A high school superstar in South Portland, Maine, he earned a scholarship and played 4 years at Boston University. So when Brown's team traveled to TD Garden for a meeting with the Celtics, the coach was inundated with ticket requests and overwhelmed with memories. He went for a jog and found himself running along the Charles River past his college. He recalled all the times as a youth when his dad would take him to the old Boston Garden to watch the legends of the game, and he couldn't help but think of the time he first played there while at BU.

The always-honest Brown talked freely about his fond memories gathered in the New England area. He also opened up even more than he has in the past about his current team, which improved to 15-31 with Wednesday's win over the Celtics on a last-second basket by Evan Turner. It seemed like the basketball floodgates opened in Brown's head and he again was wonderfully honest about what he thinks about this club, himself and how it will all mesh together.

We all know what this season was about - a high lottery pick. Brown knows it as well as anyone. General manager Sam Hinkie is on board (just take a look at the roster he has assembled for Brown's first year). If there is a problem, it's that Brown is out to win each and every game, no matter how it may diminish the number of pingpong balls for the draft.

There is a competitive side to him that pushes above the normal standard set by coaches and players. He is wired differently in that aspect. He won't leave the court after a practice or pregame warmup without having some kind of competition with someone, usually shooting with Nerlens Noel. (Brown mostly wins.) The competition stokes him. To win almost brings an ease to his hyper personality. Losses only enhance the hyperness.

Which is why he wants - needs - to win so badly. It is what he is used to doing; it is probably a big reason why Hinkie chose him to be the coach. Brown knows how to win. What has to be killing him is that he's trying to coach this team more for improvement, knowing the results often won't show in wins.

"We have to play better defense, but I'm tired of hearing myself," he said the other day in Boston. "We tell our guys. I think a layman says that you just [have to] try harder, and it's so not true. My parents try hard, but they're not going to come out and play great defense. There's a lot more to playing an NBA defense than trying. That's the knock that I have questions about. It's just unfair. It's not true.

"We're in the wrong floor spots, we miss rotations, we foul shooters, we throw the thing away, our pace catches up with us. We go through patches where it's deflating, you feel like you're playing hard and somebody scores. I think the defensive intelligence and how we're guarding, combined with the effort they give most nights, I'm proud to be their coach most nights. But at the end of the day, that all sounds great. We have to do a better job of playing defense because we're going nowhere down the road unless we do."

He was spewing his honest feelings as fast as the words would come out of his mouth. Soon enough the word "playoffs" came out, then talk of a possible lineup change. It was refreshing and eye-opening to see just how much effort the man is putting into a season that wasn't supposed to give much reward.

"They have to understand how you play in playoffs. And if you don't, you're watching television at the end of April," Brown said.

"Some of it is just the makeup of our team. How do you build a team? What's the positional strengths of a team? Whether it's perimeter defenders, whether it's interior shot blockers. I like my guys. In my heart of hearts, I'm probably starting the wrong mix. I could easily come in and say, 'Lavoy [Allen] come in for Spencer [Hawes] and Hollis [Thompson] come in for James [Anderson],' and maybe that would be better for us. I think about that all the time. When you start building a program for keeps and start looking at those things, that all has to be factored in. We're on a path, we're on a mission. Everything we're doing is planned. We revisit it all the time and that's how you build a program and that's how you develop a defensive culture.

"We play with the league's fastest pace. That's great. I'm proud of that and they had to get in great shape to do that. That's the thing that we talked about when I got the job - that they had to get in career-best shape and now they have and let's run out of that. It's the ripple effects and the unintentional consequences that have come from trying to play at this very fast pace that caught me off guard at times."

Brown has a 4-year, guaranteed contract. Whether his lack of patience will see that through is a question for another time, though his personality makes it hard to believe he would give up. He's a lot like the people of the city he now coaches in: tough, hard-working, never quitting.

"I had one [local] person have a crack at me when I was running. I had my Sixers stuff on and I was freezing and I had somebody talk about how we needed a win, when were we going to get a win? I was like, yes, I understand and I started running faster. For the most part, people have just been unbelievably great. I think that we've been pretty clear - I know that we've been clear - in saying that this is going to be a painful year.

"I said from Day 1 when I got the job that the rebuild, the pain of losing is real. It doesn't just sound good in August. Now I'm living it. When you're down 20 and you're on the sidelines, and I've been spoiled because I've been a part of 50-win seasons every one of my years, four NBA championships [with San Antonio] . . . This, at times, is hard.

"The city of Philadelphia has been great at realizing that this is going to take 2 years. This isn't just 1 [year], this is going to take a few years to really get going again. I think the realities of that have been understood by the city, a city that is extremely competitive. And so am I. We want what they want. I love being in that city. It's a real city and it's a tough city, and I hope that I can do my job well enough that I can bring to the court something that everybody else wants."



Atlanta Hawks at Sixers

When: Tonight, 7:30

Where: Wells Fargo Center

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/ ESPN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: This is a homecoming for former Sixers Kyle Korver, Elton Brand and Lou Williams, who all will suit up for Atlanta. The Hawks should be plenty rested as their home game Wednesday against Detroit was canceled down due to the ice storm.

Sixers at Detroit Pistons

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Palace of Auburn Hills

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/ ESPN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: This is just a terrible matchup for the Sixers. The Pistons' Andre Drummond leads the Eastern Conference with 33 double-doubles this season and forward Greg Monroe always gives the Sixers fits. They also will be well-rested as this will be Detroit's first game since Tuesday.

Sixers at Brooklyn Nets

When: Monday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Barclays Center

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/ ESPN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: The Barclays Center certainly doesn't conjure up good memories for the Sixers as they were blasted in their last visit by 36 points. Joe Johnson scored 29 points in the third quarter and the Sixers allowed the Nets to drain a franchise-record 21 three-pointers.

Boston Celtics at Sixers

When: Wednesday, 7 o'clock

Where: Wells Fargo Center

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/ ESPN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: It really is sad to watch these two teams battling it out for more pingpong balls, but that is where we are. The Celtics should get a boost as Rajon Rondo continues to round into form after missing half of the season recovering from knee surgery.


15: That's how many losses the Celtics suffered in the month of January, tying a franchise record. They won two during the first month of the year.

30-64: That's the combined record of the Sixers and Celtics. That just doesn't seem right.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76