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Sixers should not fire Brett Brown

Dave Uram
May 13, 2019 - 7:05 am

The Brett Brown era shouldn’t end on a Kawhi Leonard buzzer beater that bounced four times before it went in. That would be reactionary to one moment after a six-year tenure that featured tons of development with the program Brown built.  

“Stuff like that, we’ve talked internally a lot,” Brown said in response to a question about his future shortly after the loss. “The club can respond to that.” 

Brown’s coaching days could be numbered in Philadelphia, as a Marc Stein report in the New York Times over the weekend said Brown’s chance of surviving a second round exit is little​. If the 76ers do fire Brown following their Game 7 loss to the Raptors, it would be the wrong decision, and one that brings several risks regarding the future of the organization. 

Yes, this loss was a heartbreaker. Yes, they missed a tremendous opportunity to advance. If they don’t give up 16 offensive rebounds and find a way to execute down the stretch, the Sixers are probably getting ready for the Bucks right now. And yes, Brown’s ultimate goal of reaching The NBA Finals this season wasn’t met, but that doesn’t make him a failure or reason to be a casualty as a result of this elimination. 

He’s been the Sixers coach for six seasons, yet only two of them, with 31 games of another, were with the franchise’s crown jewel, Joel Embiid. Those two seasons were 52 and 51 win campaigns, the latter in spite of the fact the front office basically gave him three different teams to coach after pulling off blockbuster trades for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. And once Harris arrived, Embiid was injured, again, thus barely giving the starting five much time to gel. Yes, Brown was given prime talent to go far in the postseason. But, he only coached them together for 21 games. Last time I checked, NBA regular seasons are 82 games. 

And even though that starting unit barely played together, they still made it to Game 7 of the conference semifinals, despite the fact Embiid experienced a lot of ailments from a sore knee, to the stomach bug, to an upper respiratory infection. He wasn’t at his full capacity, yet the Sixers remained competitive in part because of Brown’s adjustments against Brooklyn and Toronto. 

Don’t forget that during his six-year tenure as head coach, Brown remained a model representative for an organization that employed a polarizing, non-transparent general manager in Sam Hinkie, as well as Bryan Colangelo, who’s wife posted disparaging  and compromising tweets about the organization.

On top of that, how many draft picks did this organization miss on during his tenure? Let’s start with Markelle Fultz, Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams. That doesn’t include late first round picks Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Furkan Korkmaz, both of whom were selected before Pascal Siakam and Malcolm Brogdon in 2016. At least TLC and Korkmaz suited up for the Sixers. Where’s Anzejs Pasecniks? He’s the draft-and-stash center taken two picks before Kyle Kuzma in 2017. 

But no, it’s Brown’s fault the Sixers aren’t NBA Champions two to three years into actually having a team to coach after three consecutive seasons of excessive rebuilding. Stop. That’s ridiculous. 

The Sixers have shown steady improvement since winning became expected. Championships don’t happen overnight. The Warriors didn’t win a title until Stephen Curry’s sixth season, with the previous seasons in Curry’s career not featuring an extensive rebuild like the Sixers went through. Curry was 26 when he finally won. Embiid is 25 and Ben Simmons is 22. 

A better comparison is the Portland Trailblazers, a team that won its Game 7 on Sunday under head coach Terry Stotts, who’s in his seventh season with the Blazers. The last two years, Portland was swept in the first round, by the eventual champion Warriors and the surprising Pelicans. Prior to that, under Stotts, they never got past Game 5 of the conference semifinals. Now, they’re off the conference finals with an excellent team.

And lastly, Allen Iverson’s Sixers didn’t reach The NBA Finals until their third straight season of making the playoffs, with the previous two being second round exits. Last time I checked, Larry Brown wasn’t fired and there weren’t any wholesale changes. True, Iverson almost got traded, but that had nothing to do with losing in the second round. 

Again, making it to and winning an NBA Finals doesn’t happen overnight. 

Brett Brown was extended through the 2021-22 season almost a year ago. He’s earned and deserves at least one more season to get this team past the second round. They were so close Sunday night.

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