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By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The process of becoming the head coach of the Sixers has been an interesting one for Brett Brown. A marathon interview process that was months long has given way to a sprint for Brown to get himself and his players ready for the upcoming season.
There isn’t time to waste, especially when Brown decided to hire an entirely new coaching staff to support him.
“It’s very intimidating because you have no staff. You’re trying to do a good job of making sure you get the right people and I when I say staff, you’re really talking about the bench coaches, the development coaches, the video room,” Brown said of his first week on the job. “Trying to have some feel for what the NBDL (The Delaware 87ers) program is going to look like. So you get to a number of anywhere from nine to 12 people that you really have to be selective on hiring. My first call was to our strength and conditioning coach where we discussed, in a very serious way, just my philosophy in regards to fitness and the importance that we are going to place in these guys health. I reached out immediately to our players, you know all of them. We’ve challenged everybody and I’m doing this with them, where we want a career best fitness arrival where we aspire to have guys in their career best shape and that’s hard to do when you accept a position on August the 20th, and so there needs to be some level of patience there too, where we get these guys healthy and fit. That has been the first period of time since I have accepted the job.”
Brown’s coaching resume is impressive and diverse, from many successful years with the San Antonio Spurs to his work in Australia. The last decade with the Spurs, and the success they had will be in stark contrast, at least initially, to what he’ll experience with the Sixers.
Part of the reason he decided to accept a job that will most likely mean a lot of losses in the first couple of years is because of Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie.
“One of the things that excited me is, I in many ways, have hitched my car to Sam Hinkie. The faith that I have in him helped me make this decision. I feel like he can make me a better coach,” Brown said. “I feel like I want to know what he knows, in regards to analytics and being able to take that side of sport, and it’s now creeping into basketball as we’ve seen it do in baseball, and apply it to how you really think the game should be played or what you are going to prioritize. I think to dismiss it, is not wise. I feel like you have to make decisions with numbers, not by the numbers.”
Hinkie’s experience and use of analytics have been well documented, but it’s fair to say he’s a leader in the field. If a coach wants to learn the benefits, there are few people who would be better to learn from than Hinkie.
Though the use of analytics apply to both personnel decisions and what happens on the court, Brown is clear that what happens on the hardwood is his call.
“Sam [Hinkie] won’t be dictating how we play. Sam will support—and this is what I just was thrilled about talking to him, you got to coach the team. That’s my job to come in and say, this is the strength of our personnel, this is how I think the game should be played, and the fantastic thing was as I sort of declared how I think it should be done, it was clear that that’s how he also thinks it should be done. I felt like we were well and truly together in regards to how the modern day game should be played,” Brown said. “He’s going to support it, he’s going to provide information, we’re going to make decisions with the numbers not by the numbers, and I just feel really excited to put a style of basketball on the court in Philadelphia that I think the fans are going to be proud of.”
Though the roster is incomplete (to say it very kindly), one known quantity is Thaddeus Young. Though rumors suggest Young could be traded, Brown is anxious to coach him if he’s on the team.
“I think he’s just so versatile and when you have to game plan against him, as I’ve had for all those years with San Antonio, and the way we did it with Pop [Greg Popovich] is we split the league up into thirds and the bench coaches were responsible for that portion of the NBA teams,” Brown said. “Philadelphia, by coincidence, happened to be my team for the past six, seven years and so I’ve seen a lot of coaches come through, I’ve seen a lot of players come through. Thaddeus [Young], during his stay with Philadelphia, is always one of those guys you thought you’d like to steal and bring to San Antonio. I think that his versatility—is a he four man, is he a three man, can he guard a four, can he guard LeBron [James]? I feel like he just does an awful lot.”
Brett Brown has a big job ahead of him, and with his four year contract, it seems like he’ll have time to get the job done. As Brown admits, it will take some luck to get the right pieces in place, and some patience to keep from losing faith, but it seems like he has the right attitude to be the guy who does those things.