TORONTO - The news that the 76ers have been talking to Mike D'Antoni about joining Brett Brown's coaching staff is true, the coach confirmed Sunday. And it has nothing to do with the recent hire of Jerry Colangelo, he says.
"It's true, we have been speaking with him," said Brown, who signed a contract extension on Friday. "For a while now we've been trying to figure out where we are as a staff. We have the youngest team in the history of the game and the staff was designed to cater to that, tilted extremely on development and energy. Having a graybeard, true-veteran type NBA coach has been discussed for a while as it relates to growing my staff. Vance Walberg and Chad Iske left last year and we opted to take our existing staff, which I think is fantastic and I love and has been great to me, and grow them. It's just something that has been kind of ever-present for a while. The timing is disturbing of a leak. We have been talking about it for a while."
Brown said last week's hiring of Colangelo, who is based in Phoenix, as a special adviser and the discussions with D'Antoni, who had a ton of success there as a head coach, are not related.
"No, there's nothing that's been agreed upon," said Brown of the talks with D'Antoni. "We've discussed people that fit that kind of genre."
D'Antoni coached in the NBA for 12 seasons and compiled a 455-426 record in stints with Denver, Phoenix, New York and the Lakers. His most successful run was a four-year span in Phoenix from 2004-05 to 2007-08 when he averaged 58 wins a season. He then became the head coach of the Knicks in 2008-09 but couldn't turn that program around in his three-plus seasons. He went to the Lakers in 2012-13 but lasted just two seasons there.
His Suns teams were led by point guard Steve Nash, who won consecutive MVPs in D'Antoni's first two full seasons there. The team advanced to the Western Conference finals both those seasons but were eliminated by the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs, respectively.
D'Antoni's teams have always been known for their fast style of play, which is what Brown has been trying to incorporate since taking over three seasons ago. During that successful four-year span in Phoenix, D'Antoni's squad led the league in points for three of them and came in third the other season, averaging close to 110 points during that time.
The Sixers, of course, have struggled mightily at the offensive end since Brown has been here. In his first season, when there still were some veterans on the team, the Sixers averaged 99.5 points a game, good for 16th in the league. They were next-to-last a season ago at 92 a game and are dead last this season at 91 per contest.
The possible dynamic is an interesting one. Brown has experience in coaching two bigs from his time in San Antonio with David Robinson and Tim Duncan. D'Antoni ran an offense that helped his point guard win consecutive MVPs. The bigs, in Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid, are already in place. The point guard spot, of course, isn't stable.
"This is a good thing. That name is a good thing," said Brown. "How can that not be a good thing? I want to make sure that it's delivered with that spirit. I will be transparent as this plays out. I think what's most fair to say is Mike D'Antoni is of special interest to me."
Saturday, one of the most impressive streaks in the history of the NBA was snapped when the Milwaukee Bucks became the first team this season to defeat the defending champion Golden State Warriors after 24 wins to open the season.
"I just feel like their style of play is what's jaw-dropping. The people within that style of play is jaw-dropping," said Brett Brown. "To find the mental capacity to string that volume of wins together in a row in the NBA, says another story about their makeup, their mental toughness. They are a champion. Somebody is going to have to knock them out, like the epitome of a street fight. They go down hard if they go down. That number is just amazing. And it's really amazing when you look at their style and the makeup of how they get stuff done."