Sixers aide immerses Brown in analytics

STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Sam Hinkie (left) and coach Brett Brown are sticking with their plan.
STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Sam Hinkie (left) and coach Brett Brown are sticking with their plan.
Posted: April 09, 2014

Brett Brown is inherently curious.

The first-year 76ers coach was eager to learn as much as possible about the data that tell us where every player is during every possession of an NBA game. It's called analytics, and the Sixers are among the NBA franchises that are shifting toward basing major decisions on data and model-driven analysis.

"There's always the thing that they call unintended consequences," said Brown, who was introduced to analytics this season. "That's where my curiosity combined with, yeah, you know, there's a bit of defiance in me that I don't believe it. Prove it. And what about this? What about that?

"And if you can get through all those type of layers, I say, 'Wow.' And I feel like I've improved."

So much so that the 53-year-old is fond of Lance Pearson, who deals with advanced analytics and statistical scouting for the Sixers. Pearson was hired away from Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky., where he was an assistant coach and special assistant in analytics.

He has a Ph.D. in computational neuroscience from Boston University. Pearson also has bachelor's degrees in computer science, mathematics and philosophy from Kentucky.

"I have a guy in my meetings that I've just fallen in love with," Browns said. "I have a bunch of assistant coaches, and I've got a gentleman with about four degrees that is incredibly impressive when you say, 'What's your background?' And he rolls off all of this followed by his doctorate.

"In my meeting, I say . . . 'Who's the best in the league in this? What does this mean? We are number one in the league in pace. Is that a kick-ahead three-ball?' "

The inquisitive Brown tries to digest Pearson's information so it can benefit him and the Sixers.

Pearson's discussions with the coaching staff don't focus solely on basketball.

The topics have included the asteroid that struck Mexico 66 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs. They also talk about the missing Malaysian jet and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, among other things.

"The analytics side has really captured my imagination and will factor into a lot with this upcoming draft," Brown said. "I'm going to see a different side than I probably will ever know when we start . . . assessing people."

kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

www.inquirer.com/deepsixer

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