The Case For Brett Brown
The 76ers organization confirmed Monday Night and reaffirmed on Tuesday morning at a press conference that Brett Brown will continue to be the Head Coach heading into the 2019-20 season. Whether you are on social media or listen to fan reaction on 97.3 FM, the Sixers fan base has continued to be divided about Brett Brown, so divisive that the debates have the intense passions of a Political Debate on a cable news network.
While his coaching record of 178-314 is an eye sore, it is directly a reflection of the reality that the organization was in the depths of an extreme rebuild for his first three seasons as Head Coach. But from years three to five the 76ers increased their Wins Total from 10 to 28 to 52 and after this past season, Brown now has a postseason coaching record of 12-10 and the team went seven games with the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series ultimately decided by a last second shot that bounced on the rim four times before dropping in.
Whether you are a “Believer” in The Process or you are among the anti-Brett Brown constituency, let’s take a moment to separate our emotions from this heated debate about Brett Brown and evaluate the merits of this Head Coach to keeping his job moving forward:
- Brown versus other Head Coaches
The reality is that for his first three seasons as Sixers Head Coaches, Brett Brown was the overseer of a roster that was more comparable to a G-League team than a competitive NBA squad. So when comparing Brown versus other NBA Head Coaches, we really can only look at the last three seasons in which two of them the 76ers reached the postseason. Here is how Brett Brown compares to several other NBA Head Coaches over their first three seasons of their coaching tenures:
-Brett Brown: Averaged 43.7 Wins per season
-Brad Stevens (2013-2016): 37.7 Wins per season
-Quin Snyder (2014-2017): 43
-Mike Budenholzer (2013-2016): 48.7
-Erik Spoelstra (2008-2011): 49.3
-Mark Jackson (2012-2014): 40.3
The only coaches on this list with more Wins per season to start their tenures were Budenholzer and Spoelstra, both men walking into good situations with General Managers committed to changing the direction of their franchises as quickly as possible with more talented rosters than the others on this list.
Now let’s compare Brett Brown's postseason coaching record to other NBA Head Coaches who were participants in the 2019 NBA Postseason:
-Brett Brown (2 Appearances): 12-10/54.5 Winning Percentage
-Brad Stevens (5 Appearances): 27-29/48.2%
-Mike Budenholzer (5 Appearances): 25-23/52.1%
-Dwane Casey (6 Appearances): 21-34/38.2%
-Terry Stotts (7 appearances): 20-32/38.5%
-Doc Rivers (15 Appearances): 84-83/50.3%
-Steve Kerr (5 Appearances): 71-24/74.7%
-Quin Snyder (3 Appearances): 10-17/37%
-Mike D’Antoni (9 Appearances): 49-49/50%
-Gregg Popovich (22 Appearances): 170-114/59.9%
While 2 postseason appearances is a small sample size, Brown has experienced a level of success that has earned him a better winning percentage in the NBA Playoffs than most of his contemporaries. Brown is one of six Head Coaches on that list with a winning percentage above 50 and the only coaches with a better winning percentage than Brown (Kerr and Popovich) have some of the greatest players in the NBA over the last 20 years on their rosters.
- Players Opinions/Perspectives on Brett Brown
The fans and media perspectives on the Sixers Head Coach may be the loudest, but one could argue that those opinions are not as important as the views of the players themselves who play for and work with Brett Brown each day. At Monday’s end of season media session players such as Joel Embiid, JJ Redick, and Jimmy Butler had pertinent thoughts about Brett Brown as the 76ers Head Coach:
- NBA Head Coaching Precedent
Over the last 35 years, the NBA has seen numerous coaches fired due to their teams failing to meet expectations. Whether a team hits a wall in term of progress or they regress from the previous season, there are times where the Head Coach takes the blame for the team’s lack of success, even when that blame is not truly earned, someone has to take the blame. Let’s review some famous/infamous instances of Head Coaches who were fired and their successors won NBA Championships with the same core of players:
-Doug Collins led the Chicago Bulls to three consecutive postseason appearances from 1987-1989 and lost to the Detroit Pistons back to back years. Under Collins, the Bulls wins total decreased in regular season from 50 to 47 while the team’s defense took a step back in the third year from being top three defensive team in the NBA (101.6 Points Per Game Allowed was best in the league in 1987-88) to allowing four more points per game and their Defensive Rating dropped to 11th Best in the NBA.
-Del Harris led the Los Angeles Lakers to four straight postseason appearances from 1995-1998 and was fired after going 6-6 to start the lockout shortened 1999 season. Despite an increase in wins each season from 48 in 1994-95 to 61 in 1997-98, being knocked out of the postseason in consecutive years by the Utah Jazz and a miserable record of 1-8 in the playoffs versus the Jazz was weighing on the franchise ahead of the start of the 1999 season. The perception was that Del Harris voice had grown stale in the locker room headlined by two strong personality superstars. Also the defense had regressed statistically from being ranked top ten in multiple categories to dropping into the bottom third of the league and in their first 12 games allowing opponents to score 98 or more points four times.
-Rick Carlisle seemed to have a very good start as an NBA Head Coach leading the Detroit Pistons to consecutive 50-32 seasons in his first two seasons but there was a volatile relationship between Carlisle and ownership that President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars was unable to rectify. Losing in a sweep to the New Jersey Nets in the Eastern Conference Finals was a bad look for Carlisle and ownership had enough of the 43 year old Head Coach at that point.
-Mark Jackson appeared to be an ascending Head Coach as the Golden State Warriors increased the regular season win total each season from just 23 wins in 2011-12 to 51 in 2013-14. But in their second year reaching the NBA Playoffs, the Warriors took a step back after advancing to the second round in 2013 but losing in the first round in the 2014 postseason. According to multiple reports there was a strained relationship between Jackson and the Warriors Front Office while ownership did not see eye-to-eye with Jackson’s basketball philosophy and management style.
Based on these four examples, there is no precedent in NBA history to suggest Brett Brown should not be the 76ers Head Coach heading into the 2019-20 season. Brown has a good, healthy relationship with Sixers ownership and Front Office while the Sixers have not been embarrassed in the postseason nor has team performance regressed from one season to the next. In fact, outside of a handful of players, rarely has Brown coached the same core of players beyond a couple years at a time and not enough time to truly establish anything consistent on the court.
The old saying “Perception is reality” may be the driving force in most of the anti-Brett Brown sentiment on social media and around the 76ers fan base. But the truth is that Brett Brown has been one of the only consistent, stable aspects of a franchise that has seen extensive roster and front office turnover during the last six seasons. While Brett Brown shows up for to work each day, the 76ers organization has employed three different top Executives to oversee the Front Office while the roster has fluctuated from year to year for various reasons. The fact that Brett Brown has survived all the changes around him and he had the team in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals is a testament to the reality that he has been the stabilizing voice and force for a franchise that desperately needed him for cohesion through everything that has happened on and off the court. Stability is vitally important for any organization and the one person that the Sixers fan base along with Sixers’ ownership has been able to depend on for six years is Brett Brown.