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By Ed Benkin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Brett Brown knows all about the tradition of the Philadelphia 76ers. Brown witnessed it first hand at the old Boston Garden.
The New England native and former San Antonio Spurs assistant is now the head coach of the 76ers. During Brown’s younger days, he would go watch the Celtics play the 76ers when it was one of the best rivalries in all of sports. It helped build Brown’s love for basketball as well as his respect for the 76ers franchise.
LISTEN: KYW Newsradio’s Ed Benkin Interviews Brett Brown…
“To be sitting here is very surreal,” said Brown. “I can still see Doc (Julius Erving) and (George) McGinnis and Mo Cheeks and (Andrew) Toney. I was sitting at the Garden with my Polaroid camera trying to get any shot I could. It’s a basketball thing that I’ve grown up with.”
Unfortunately for Brown, the likes of Dr. J and Andrew Toney won’t be walking into the Sixers’ locker room anytime soon. Brown knew when he came to Philadelphia that he would be part of a rebuilding process. It is a far cry from his time in San Antonio, where Brown was part of four NBA championships with the Spurs.
“I have not been a part of a rebuild since I have been in the NBA,” Brown said. “I was about to go into my 13th year with the Spurs. I’ve been around the game my whole life. I have had experiences where losing comes into a team, and the rebuild part of that has to be keeping the locker room together.”
Brown will have less time to get ready for the season than any other NBA head coach. It took the Sixers nearly four months to fill the last NBA coaching vacancy. Brown admitted he was torn between staying in San Antonio and coming to a franchise which many believe may have the worst team in the NBA this upcoming season.
“A lot has been made about the process and the length of time that it took for the final decision to be made,” said Brown. “For me, it was a tremendous opportunity to also research a job that I was very interested in.”
There were reports that people around the basketball world urged Brown to stay in San Antonio. In the end, Brown embraced the opportunity to try and turn around one of the most storied franchises in the NBA.
“There were times that I wasn’t sure,” Brown said. “I think this is a very high calculated chance. I think the risk-reward here tilts far on the side that there are so many coaches who would want this opportunity.”
Brown wanted to make sure he wouldn’t become a retread coach cast aside after a rough beginning. He received a four-year deal, something Brown said was an important part of the process.
“I was not going to take the job without the four years,” said Brown. ”I am extremely grateful to the owners.”
Brown takes over a franchise still recovering from the wreckage of the Andrew Bynum fiasco. For years, fans grew frustrated about the stagnant condition of the franchise. The Sixers were a borderline playoff team for many seasons with no chance of seriously contending for a title. They rolled the dice to get better and came up snake eyes in the trade with Bynum. Management realized it was time to rebuild.
Off went Jrue Holiday to New Orleans. The Sixers will look to build around rookies Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel. Carter-Williams will be learning on the fly at the point guard position while Noel won’t be playing until at least December as he recovers from a knee injury.
There are veterans such as Thaddeus Young for Brown to lean on as the rebuilding begins. However, patience will be needed. They likely won’t be printing playoff tickets anytime soon at the Sixers front office.
Brown is the latest and one of the most significant pieces to the rebuilding plan. It could end in disaster. However, Brown couldn’t resist the idea of making the 76ers winners again in the future.
“Can you imagine if we can get this thing right?” asked Brown. “If we can get this right with the culture and the history that this city has and the pride and the toughness this city has….that is very luring. It’s tempting.”