I Regret to Inform Myself That I’m Now a “Fire Brett Brown” Guy
Nearly seven years after he was hired as coach of the already-beginning-to-Process Philadelphia 76ers, and probably a couple years too late, I finally lost faith in Brett Brown as a coach capable of bringing the team to an NBA title. Or at least, I finally realized I had lost faith, because the moment it dawned on me wasn’t during the Sixers embarrassing defeat at the hands of TJ Warren and the shorthanded Indiana Pacers, it was the night before, when the Sixers hadn’t even restarted their COVID-interrupted season yet.
Before the season, I had written that, although there was reportedly mutual interest between the two sides, Carmelo Anthony and the Sixers were a bad match. My reasoning was simple: I thought Melo was washed, any hype about him being a useful player was the same overmemed Olympic Melo/Hoodie Melo nonsense that was dispelled quickly in his previous stops in Oklahoma City and Houston, and that any potential upside he had left was outweighed by the risk of him being pouty in the locker room and one dimensional on the court. As I watched the Blazers-Grizzlies game on Friday, with Melo hitting clutch shot after clutch shot, I realized that I was wrong, and that his one dimension would serve the Sixers pretty well when he had it going. Bad call by me! I also realized something more important, though: that I had no confidence that Anthony would be showing these flashes of his former self if he were playing for the Sixers. That’s when I knew I was out on Brett Brown.
Part of the blame for this lack of faith goes to Elton Brand and the front office, sure. If Brand makes a move, I believe it will go poorly for the team because I believe he is a bad GM with bad team building instincts (see: Al Horford, $100 million man). But in the time the team has been competitive, who has come into Brown’s system and exceeded expectations? Jimmy Butler clashed with Brown immediately, didn’t perform to his usual standards in the regular season, turned it on in the playoffs, then left for Miami and returned to All-NBA form. Al Horford had his talent drained by the Monstars. Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson, whose talents seemed to be ascending when the Sixers acquired them, have stagnated and regressed, respectively.
The Pacers, Raptors, and in prior seasons Heat and Nets always frustrated me because, while lacking elite talents like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, they played the Sixers close and outperformed what you’d expect from them on paper. They found guys like Victor Oladipo, Fred Van Vleet, the Heat version of Richardson, and Spencer Dinwiddie from the NBA scrap heap, late picks on bargain second contracts, or rehab projects, and made them valuable NBA contributors, guys who can hold their own in the playoffs (and in Oladipo’s case, a star). They seemed to have full teams of these type of guy. The closest thing the Sixers have to this is Shake Milton, who got too big for his britches and seemingly wanted to fight Embiid in the first seeding game, and maybe Furkan Korkmaz. Seeing Trey Burke, who the team cut, go for 31 points for the Mavs after contributing nothing for the Sixers doesn’t help this feeling, though that was of course only one game.
Again, a large part of the blame for this goes to Brand, who is horrible at his job, but at some point the lack of development for non-stars across the board is glaring, and the gap between how good the team should be on paper and how often mediocre they play (not to mention how absolutely miserable they are to watch) has to fall on Brown. The team never plays above its level, and while playoff series are traditionally won by the team with the best player, there are a lot of great players in the NBA right now, and to win a title you need your Van Vleets, Robert Horrys, Derrick Fishers, and Shane Battiers to come through. Under Brown, I have no confidence that that will happen for the Sixers. That realization, coupled with the team’s complete lack of adjustment to TJ Warren that helped him get to 53 points on Saturday, leave me feeling like the team has no choice but to move on from.
Admittedly, I’m late to the party on this. I thought Brown’s treatment by fans and media was unfair, that he deserved the chance to go after the title after suffering through the lean years. Subconsciously I thought his charm and affability had to help him get his message through to the players. I was wrong about that.He seems to have been tuned out, negating what was likely his best quality as a coach.
A couple years ago, the Sixers brought in Mike D’Antoni mid-season as the “offensive coordinator.” D’Antoni rose to fame as coach of Steve Nash’s Seven Seconds or Less Suns, before flaming out as Knicks coach when he couldn’t get Carmelo to buy into his system. He’s now the coach of the Rockets, and has completely changed his system from the fast, enjoyable Suns version to an iso-heavy slog that maximizes his star, James Harden’s, skill set. D’Antoni has yet to prove himself by winning a title in Phoenix or Houston, but that ability to change the system to maximize what he gets from his stars would sure be interesting on the weirdly-constructed Sixers right now. The Nets fired Kenny Atkinson, who last year got the team to play well enough with a bunch of relative no-names that they became a viable destination for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Hopefully Sixers next coach can do a little of both for them.