Give Brown credit; he knows what he is getting into

Posted: August 16, 2013

THE INTERESTING thing about the Sixers and new grand pooh-bah of basketball operations Sam Hinkie taking more than 3 months to find a head coach is that San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown was analyzing them while they were analyzing him.

So if there is nothing else to take from Brown being announced as the 24th coach in franchise history yesterday, it's that the longtime assistant to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich understands what he is walking into.

"I have not been a part of a rebuild since I have been in the NBA," conceded Brown, who, in 13 years with the Spurs organization, helped them get to five NBA Finals and win four.

"Can you imagine if we can get this thing right? Really. If we can this right with the culture and the history that this city has, and the pride and the toughness that this city has, that is very luring. It's tempting."

OK, so Brown just made what many call the worst situation in the NBA sound as if he were taking over the Miami Heat.

But, honestly, on Day 1 of what is expected to be a long journey, what more can you want from the new captain of your ship?

When a lot of people around him were telling Philadelphia was a bad job, Brown said, the hell with that, I'm going to make it work.

You have to love the enthusiasm. You have to love that Brown wanted this challenge.

Brown's track record in San Antonio, plus his experience as a championship head coach in the National Basketball League in Australia and as former head coach of the Australian Olympic team, meant he wasn't desperate.

The former point guard who played for Rick Pitino at Boston University could have made a safe gamble that a successful season as the lead assistant to Popovich would result in more opportunities after the 2013-14 season.

Yet Brown took a situation in which his best veteran player, Thaddeus Young, has started only half of his 437 NBA career games; in which Evan Turner, selected No. 2 overall in 2011, might never become more than a journeyman, and in which center Spencer Hawes, who has never lit up the NBA the way he did a recent charity game, is his best big man.

Brown has a team with a rookie point guard, Michael Carter-Williams, who everyone knows cannot shoot and a rookie center, Nerlens Noel, who is coming off a torn ACL and might not play this season.

"I don't know enough about the players yet to give an accurate answer," Brown said when asked who might be a star player for the Sixers. "I hear your question, but I just can't give an answer right now."

Brown saw a situation that was light-years away from the one he had in San Antonio, where he helped coach All-Stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and jumped in.

"If I was going to leave the situation I has in San Antonio, it had better be for the right one," he said.

"I think this is a high-calculated chance. It's dangerous. Rebuild is always a very hard thing, but I feel just thrilled to be here."

Brown, 52, has no delusions about the difficult task in front of him. The Sixers were recently predicted to be the worst team in the Eastern Conference this season.

He takes over a team that the vast majority of fans hope has a miserable enough season that it can get the most pingpong balls in the 2014 NBA lottery and then win the top prize, Kansas freshman swingman Andrew Wiggins.

But Brown knows the risks involved with banking everything on the lottery.

He knows Pitino took that gamble when he left Kentucky to rebuild the Boston Celtics. Despite having the best chance, Boston did not win the 1997 lottery and lost the right to draft Duncan, who went on to win four NBA titles for the Spurs.

The difficulty of the journey is why Brown said he insisted on a 4-year contract to come to Philadelphia.

He needed to know that Sixers management had the same commitment to him that it was asking from him.

"[Winning a championship] is hard," said Brown, whose heavy New England accent just has the sound of a coach. "You appreciate how hard it is playing in May and how really hard it is playing June.

"Everybody has got a right to dream, and I'm no different. But [a Sixers championship] is such a long way away in my eyes. There is so much work that has to be done in order to even think about that.

"There is so much work and so much luck that we all are going to have to have to get to that level."

Brett Brown had months to consider everything that's wrong with the Sixers, and then took the job because he felt it was right.


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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