Brett Brown’s contract extension is well-deserved
It’s almost fitting that the news of Brett Brown’s [well-deserved] contract extension with the Philadelphia 76ers has been completely overshadowed by a shocking Twitter scandal involving the team’s own General Manager [and maybe his wife].
Since Brown took over as the Sixers head coach in 2013, it seems like there has been a consistent stream of polarizing stories looming over the organization: Sam Hinkie’s much-maligned approach to team-building, Joel Embiid’s early injury issues, the insertion of the Colangelo’s, Hinkie leaving the franchise, Markelle Fultz’s strange rookie season saga, and so on.
In other words, there has been no shortage of [major] distractions within the Sixers organization in the half-decade since Brown left the security of the Spurs to spearhead the on-court manifestation of the most radical rebuild in NBA history.
During that time, Brown was always part of the story, but never the story. However, it’s time that Brown gets some attention, because through the choppy waters, all Brown has done is steer the Sixers’ ship straight, and kept them on course, sailing [relatively] smoothly.
With his passion, patience, and positivity, Brown has been able to keep the Sixers remarkably steady, focused, and driven through a whole lot of off-court drama – for lack of a better word – and on-court strife. It would have been easy for Brown to lose the team or his players over the course of four consecutive lottery-bound seasons, but his unwavering focus on the big picture, and his approach to his players – he coached every player like they would be a Sixer for the next 10 years, even though many weren’t guaranteed to be a Sixer for 10 days – ensured that didn’t happen. This is directly reflected in the fact that the team was able to jump from a 10-win team to a 52-win team with just one buffer season in between.
Perhaps nobody across the league’s landscape is better at identifying silver linings than Brown.
I sat through dozens of Brown’s postgame press conferences from 2013-2017 – a period during which the Sixers piled up losses at a historic rate – and never once did Brown ever appear demoralized. Upset? Sure. Disappointed? You bet. But never demoralized. He never seemed to question the long-term vision that he shared with the team’s front office and ownership, or that the team was on the path toward something special.
After every loss, Brown would face the media members and pull positives from what to many appeared to be a bleak situation.
“Sure we lost, but I really liked the way we moved the ball around tonight.”
Or, “yeah we struggled as a unit, but I really like the way Robert contested shooters tonight.”
Those aren’t direct quotes from Brown, but there are representative of the way he approached the building of his team, night after night, after night.
The success that the Sixers experienced during their 2017-18 campaign didn’t occur overnight. Brown had laid the seeds for that success since he first got to the team by cultivating a positive culture both on and off the floor. In the locker room, Brown emphasized an open family environment that encouraged players to get to know each other off of the floor. This helped to foster a tightness amongst the group.
It is said about coaches a lot, but Brown genuinely cares about his players, as his passion for them, as well as for his life’s work, oozes off of him almost any time he speaks. Brown’s genuine, compassionate nature makes his players want to play hard for him, and for each other. His role in the development of key component like Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and Ben Simmons can’t be overstated either.
On the floor, Brown instituted a defense-oriented approach that emphasizes transition and floor-spacing; an ideal approach for today’s NBA. He instilled the fundamentals of his system early on in his tenure, and stuck with it. The difference this season? He actually had talent to work with.
Like many, I had some concerns that Brown could be replaced following Hinkie’s departure. But, to Colangelo’s credit (a string of words I haven’t typed very often), he stuck with Brown, who deserved an opportunity to show what he could do with a competitive roster after years of being hamstrung by the talent on the team. In 2017-18, the first year that he was given a mandate to be competitive, Brown delivered, and as such, he now has the opportunity to see just how far he can take the team in the coming years – an opportunity that is well-deserved.
Follow Michael Kaskey-Blomain on Twitter @therealmikekb.