It wasn’t long after Kawhi Leonard sent the Philadelphia 76ers home for the summer the job status of head coach Brett Brown became the topic of conversation.
Leonard’s game-winner sent the Toronto Raptors past the 76ers with a 92-90 series-clincher, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal. It will go down as one of the most cold-blooded ways to send an opponent home.
But while it felt like forever watching Leonard’s shot clang around the rim before going down, it didn’t seem to take nearly as long for the hotseat to warm up for Brown. The 76ers were barely out of Toronto before rumors of Brown’s job security picked up speed.
According to reports, Brown needed to coach the 76ers into the NBA Finals to keep his job. That rumor, which made the rounds on social media before Game 7, turned out to be only that, a rumor.
Team owner Josh Harris has confirmed that Brown will return next season as the head coach.
“Lots been made about this in the press and truthfully you can’t believe what you’re hearing and what you’re reading,” said Harris. “Brett’s job was never in jeopardy. I have a great relationship with Brett. I talked with him constantly throughout the playoffs and we continue to be excited that Brett is leading us.”
Brown is wrapping up his sixth season as Philadelphia’s head coach. Since navigating the 76ers through four difficult years of a team rebuild, he’s guided the team to back-to back 50-plus win seasons. But expectations were ramped up this year to at least make the conference finals. First-year general manager Elton Brand added veterans Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris to help Embiid and fellow young talent Ben Simmons get the team to the next step.
It’s a fact that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the City of Brotherly Love didn’t earn it’s nickname overnight. For the 76ers, the argument can be made Brown deserves more time with this team.
Philadelphia’s starting five (Butler, Harris, J.J. Redick, Simmons, and Embiid), as talented a group as any in the league, only played 10 regular season games together. Championship teams, as much as we want them to be, don’t always just come together with a victory parade at the end of that same year. It’s instead a word that fans in Philly are quite familiar with, a “process”.
Embiid may not want to hear this right now, but “the process” is still very much a thing for the 76ers. The difference now is the stakes are higher, the thought of a championship is no longer a distant fantasy. But is Brown the right coach for the next phase of that process?
Because while it’s all good ownership gave a vote of confidence, the expectations have not changed, and the goal remains the same. Brown still must deliver on those expectations or it won’t be just a rumor of his being on the hotseat.
Kudos to Harris for not waiting long to let everyone know Brown’s his guy. But like the HBO series The Wire always reminded us…
“The Game is still the Game.”
And as far as the hotseat goes, there was enough to justify ownership putting Brown on it.
The in-game adjustments by Brown, especially late in the fourth quarter of Game 7 against Toronto, were shaky. His handling of Embiid and Simmons all season also left room to be second-guessed.
Embiid has the potential to be one of the best big men in NBA history with stronger health and conditioning. Simmons has All-World potential with a jumpshot appearing to be all that’s missing from his game.
Embiid and Simmons have the potential to be perennial All-Stars, is Brown the right voice for the next phase of their development?
I’m here to tell you he’s not the right voice if Simmons comes back next season still not ready to shoot the ball in an actual NBA game. And most certainly not if there’s more talk about Embiid’s conditioning than how great a ballplayer he is.
Brown can’t make Simmons want to shoot the basketball, he also can’t keep Embiid from Chick-fil-a. However, in a results-oriented business, the bottom line is their player development ultimately falls under his watch.
Meanwhile, decisions will need to be made on pending free agents Butler and Harris, both players have strong cases this summer for max deals. Redick is also headed for the offseason market.
But it starts at the top with the voice. The decision to stick with Brown sets the tone for the next phase of Philadelphia’s process.