Brett Brown

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Brown continues unprecedented run as 76ers coach

Spike Eskin
October 11, 2019 - 12:44 pm

In a decade or two when we look back at the last seven years of Sixers basketball, let’s call it the Process Era, we’ll have a lot of things that will seem strange and amazing. With proper context and time, there will be nothing more strange and amazing than the fact that Brett Brown was here for all of it. 

More strange and amazing than the fact that Elton Brand was given a five-year, $82 million deal by the Sixers in 2008, amnestied by the team in 2012, retired in 2015, unretired in 2016 to play for the Sixers and babysit Jahlil Okafor, retired again, hired as a Player Development coach by the Sixers, promoted to be the Sixers G-League affiliate’s GM, and then became Sixers general manager, all in a ten-year span. 

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Brown has been through three General Managers, two of which left him as basically the sole mouthpiece of the organization, the most polarizing rebuild in the history of sports, five broken feet to first round picks, one first round-pick’s near-death scare with a sesame allergy, whatever we want to call the Markelle Fultz thing, the Burnergate scandal, and about a hundred players on the Sixers roster. 

Brown is now the longest tenured head coach in Philadelphia, and tied for fifth longest tenured in all of the NBA. He was not supposed to make it this far. No NBA coach is supposed to make it through a rebuild, much less so the rebuild of all rebuilds. Brown himself admitted recently that the odds of him being here long enough to see the team become the favorites in the Eastern Conference were very long. 

Brown beat the odds, which can be seen as nothing but a testament to the job he’s done as a coach. From keeping the team together and working hard through the first three years of losing, to leading a team from a 28-win season in 16’-17’, to 52 wins and a playoff series win in 17’-18’, while starting a rookie point guard and a second year center, to another 50+ win season in 18’-19’, which included another playoff round win and a game seven loss to the eventual NBA champions. A lesser coach— a lesser person—would have, understandably, been unable to persevere through all of that. It’s certainly taken its toll, at least physically, on Brown, who has aged like a two-term president (though obviously still very handsome). 

The fact that he wasn’t supposed to make it isn’t a statement about Brett Brown, but the fact that he has, certainly is. It’s quite possible that a coach who is 136 games under .500, and could have seven 50-win seasons without making it back to .500, has done the greatest coaching job in the history of Philadelphia sports, and maybe one of the most impressive in all of sports. 

It’s understandable but also a shame that it’s likely that anything short of a Finals run will be seen as a condemnation of Brown as a coach. But the stakes are high now, the goal is not just keeping the team together, it’s being the best team in the entire league. The entire point of what the Sixers went through was to get to this point, a point where it’s much more likely that the coach gets the lion’s share of the blame than the credit. 

If the Sixers disappoint this season, the world will definitely need some time and context to be able to credit Brown with the job he’s done with this franchise. I’d understand that. 

But if the Sixers reach their goal of an NBA Championship, or at least a Finals run this year, the job Brett Brown has done should immediately be considered one of the all-time accomplishments in professional sports, one we’ve never seen before, and are likely to never see again.