Sixers coach Brown analyzes analytics

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Brett Brown is curious to see how analytics will impact the Sixers in draft and other player moves.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Brett Brown is curious to see how analytics will impact the Sixers in draft and other player moves.
Posted: April 09, 2014

IT MIGHT NOT exactly be the way Sixers coach Brett Brown sees himself judging a basketball player or the best way to put his team in position to win a game. But it has quickly become a big part of his coaching life and probably will become larger this offseason.

Analytics is the way of the future, general manager Sam Hinkie and some others around the league believe, and it will no doubt play a major part in the Sixers' draft this summer, what free agents they'll pursue and whom they will try to acquire in a trade.

Don't count Brown among the fans of the analytical world when it comes to basketball just yet. His evaluation comes from what he sees, not the breakdown of where a player scores the most on the court during the last 2 minutes of a game. He will get there, eventually, because any advantage he can gain will be welcomed. For now, the first-year coach approaches analytics as a fad that needs to be questioned and proved, and then - perhaps - accepted by him.

Yesterday after practice, he introduced to the media Lance Pearson, an analytics specialist who sometimes is on the court with the team before games and at practices, rebounding for the players. He looks not much like a player or a coach, with floppy hair parted down the middle and tucked behind each ear, always a couple of days' growth on his face. But he is one of those hired by Hinkie to bring in the new wave that is analytics. And to convince Brown of the positive effects.

"I was so curious when I got hooked up with Sam because I really like trying to get better," Brown said. "I'm inherently curious. I'm 53 and I've been around a bunch of Hall of Fame coaches and I've coached for a long time myself and I want to steal from everybody. I want to get better. Sam's talent and skill package interests me very much. Could I combine analytics with my inherent belief on, 'This is how the sport should be played'?"

When Brown brought Pearson over to meet the media, Brown revealed he has "a B.A. in mathematics, a B.S. in computer science, a B.A. in philosophy with a minor in economics, and a Ph.D. in cognitive and neurosystems from Boston University. Those undergraduate degrees are from the University of Kentucky."

The point Brown was making: How can you not learn something from someone with that kind of resumé?

"I'm always inquisitive and challenging and trying to take everything that you think you know and digest it and beat it up, so that we can get more polished and I can get better," Brown said. "Analytics really captured my imagination and it will factor in a lot with this upcoming draft. I'm going to see a different side than I probably even know when we start assessing and how we start assessing people.

"There's always a thing that you call unintended consequences, and that's where my curiosity, combined with a bit of defiance in me, is that I don't believe [in analytics]. Prove it. And what about this and what about that? And if you can get through all those types of layers, then I'm like, 'Wow.' Then I feel like I've improved."

It might be a tough sell to get the new coach on board, but he'll listen, if not always agree.

Six shots

The Sixers signed swingman Adonis Thomas to a 10-day contract that will take him to the end of the season. They released James Nunnally, whose 10-day contract expired. "I'm just going to bring that defensive intensity, make shots, make plays," said Thomas, who appeared in four games with Orlando after signing the first of two 10-day contracts on Feb. 25. "Come in and show that I'm a young, talented player with potential. They are going to throw me in there, so it's my job to play the way I've been playing all year in the D-League." In 34 games with the Springfield Armor, he averaged 16.6 points and shot 46.6 percent from three-point range.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76


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