Could Larry Brown be in Sixers' future?
Coach of Sixers in their most recent glory days says he'd like to be a "resource" for the team. Does that include being its coach?
IN AN IDEAL basketball world the 76ers would be set to move forward with a new coach, perhaps a new president, maybe a new general manager or at least word that the one in place (Tony DiLeo) will be here beyond June 30, when his contract expires.
Since April 18, when it was announced that coach Doug Collins was resigning and majority owner Josh Harris stated that the organization is now basically a blank canvas, we have heard nothing from the team. There have been reports of background checks on perspective coaches, various names thrown about as to whom may replace Collins.
Without Collins, who appeared to have his stamp on most of the moves made over the past few seasons, and Rod Thorn, the former president who is now in an advisory position (which means taking phone calls once in a while from his Naples, Fla., home), most, if not all, of the basketball decisions may be sitting in DiLeo's lap. And on April 18, Harris didn't exactly give a glowing endorsement when he said DiLeo was the GM "for now."
Doesn't seem as if anything has moved forward since then, and that's just in the front office. What about decisions on the players? Is everyone being dangled for possible trades? Is there a plan to build with Jrue Holiday? Has patience run out on Evan Turner?
Perhaps one way to help get answers to these and other questions is just a phone call away - a step back to move forward.
"I have great feelings about the Sixers, I still live in Philly," former Sixers coach and current Southern Methodist University head man Larry Brown said earlier this week. "I moved Tony DiLeo up and hired Courtney Witte and am close to everybody there. I haven't heard from them, and I don't want to speculate. I don't know anything about those guys and what their goals are. My relationship was with Ed Snider. He brought me here and he let me hire everybody, and Pat let me do my job. We had a pretty bad roster with bad financial situations and we had to rebuild."
Sound a little familiar?
"I'd love to be a resource any way I can," Brown continued. "But I have a job that I'm happy and comfortable with."
During the conversation, Brown endlessly talked about his love for Philadelphia and the organization and the behind-the-scenes people who were with the Sixers when he was here and remain there now. He also said numerous times how happy he is to be coaching at SMU, where he went 15-17 in his first season and secured a solid recruiting class for next season. He heaped praise upon his Mustangs coaching staff, which includes Eric Snow and George Lynch, both of whom played for him during his six seasons as Sixers coach. He said all the politically correct things. He came nowhere near saying so, but the feeling here is that he certainly wouldn't mind being considered to be Collins' successor.
Would a step back in time benefit an organization trying to become relevant in the future? It wouldn't be too surprising a move by the ownership, as holding on to the glory days of the past has been its MO.
Julius Erving and nearly every prominent player from the championship team of 1983 have made multiple appearances at games. Allen Iverson has been back a couple of times to present the game ball to referees. Darryl Dawkins is nearly a regular visitor. So why not take a shot with the coach who has had the most recent success with the franchise?
In his years with the Sixers, Brown balanced success (70 games over .500 in his final five seasons, five playoff appearances) with the headache and excitement that was Iverson. He tinkered with the roster until he helped assemble a group that surrounded the diminutive superstar and never minded playing second fiddle. His groups "played the right way" around Iverson, culminating in the Finals appearance against the Lakers in 2001.
Would the thought of bringing him back be a viable option? Here's a look at some of the pros:
* It appears this organization is going nowhere quickly. Hiring a young, hopefully up-and-coming coach would seem to be the obvious route to travel, but where might that get you when you have little money to spend on free agents, no tangible pieces to barter with and the 11th pick in the upcoming draft, which is mediocre at best? Say you get Brown for a couple of years to further Holiday's progression and give Turner a new outlook on his NBA life. Would that really set anything back?
* In Brown, the organization would have one of the most respected people in the NBA (similar to Collins) who has relationships in every nook and cranny of the league. And in an organization that lacks those people, could it hurt?
* While Brown obviously won't be the long-term solution of this franchise's coaching search, wouldn't he be the perfect person to groom a future coach, perhaps Aaron McKie, who has spent the past six seasons on the Sixers bench as an assistant? Said Brown of McKie: "He embodies what our game is about." Or maybe there's another young assistant in the league who needs a couple of years of grooming. When talking about Brown to some in the Sixers' organization, many use the same word to describe him - maestro - because of his ability to conduct a game the way that best benefits his team.
* If Harris and company decide to not renew DiLeo and bring in another GM, and perhaps hire a president, as well, they would have Brown's knowledge and contacts on board. Having that certainly could make a transition with new brass a bit easier.
Of course, there could be cons to bringing Brown back:
* Brown is a "my way" kind of coach and would have to deal with an ownership that is still very wet behind the ears when it comes to basketball savvy. Can you envision the first time someone tries to talk with the Hall of Famer about analytics? Can you just see the look on Brown's face when someone tries to explain it to him? How long will it take for Brown to bring up the names Frank McGuire and Dean Smith?
* What would fan reaction be? Public perception is high on the list of this ownership group, and how the fans would react to bringing Brown back would probably weigh heavily on its decision.
* Would players, particularly the younger ones, react positively to Brown's style, which in some ways is similar to Collins'?
As with most subjects with the Sixers, questions far outweigh any answers. Maybe some answers could come with a simple phone call.
Today on PhillyDailyNews.com: Tell us what you think about the idea that Larry Brown could be coming back to coach the Sixers.