SO JERRY COLANGELO climbed on board The Process bus, which right now is running with a flat tire, three more that are underinflated and a faulty transmission that has been slipping for two-plus seasons. Colangelo, the 76-year-old who has been called the Godfather of basketball, is the engine that will carry it to the repair shop where draft picks, free agents and trades will supply the rebuild.
Once the repairs are made, Colangelo made it plainly clear on Monday who is going to be the driver of all this moving forward, and that is head coach Brett Brown.
Jerry Colangelo has nothing more to prove in the world of basketball. He is someone who has been named the NBA's executive of the year on four occasions. He has been the director of USA Basketball since 2005, basically overseeing the most powerful basketball organization in the world. He does not come here to answer to managing partner Josh Harris or to general manager Sam Hinkie. He is now the face of the 76ers. And his righthand man appears to be the current coach.
Whether the NBA had a hand in bringing Colangelo here or not is really irrelevant, if you're a Sixers fan. He now has the keys to everything.
When asked Monday about the commitment management still had to Brown, Harris said Brown was still their man. Sitting to Harris' left, Colangelo nodded approvingly, as if to say, "This is one instance where I agree with you, Josh."
Some will say that Brown deserves an extension of his contract, which will run out at the end of next season, simply because he's been the good soldier and has been the one in the line of fire during the 186 games over the past three seasons that have produced just 38 wins. Others will say that he hasn't proved much, that players haven't progressed as rapidly as they should and that his team's inability to close out games goes directly to him.
Brown spent 12 seasons with Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs. Just through osmosis, Brown has learned how to coach in the NBA. Popovich has said Brown will be a great coach in the league. I've talked with Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen about the makeup of Brown and they would still be talking if time wasn't a limitation. The respect he has garnered from his former players isn't just because of his bright disposition or because he's one of the guys. All those players could talk about was the work ethic and the basketball knowledge that Brown possesses. Of the points that Colangelo definitively made about a team he has only really studied for about 10 days, keeping Brown was at the top.
"I like Brett," said the new special adviser to the managing general partner (Harris' boss) and chairman of basketball operations (Hinkie's boss), when asked Monday of his coach. He was also asked, in the same question, about Hinkie, but moved on to Brown instead. "I think he's done a heck of a job here despite the circumstances."
The timing of it all also seems to show Colangelo's confidence in Brown. The announcement was made the same day as Brown's team was playing the Spurs. Colangelo recently announced that Popovich would be taking over coaching duties of Team USA from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski after the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Think maybe Popovich and Colangelo may have had a talk at some point during this whole process, perhaps quite extensively, about Brown?
I hear those who question Brown's coaching, particularly late in games and in certain in-game situations. Sometimes, yes, there are some head-scratching moments. But I equate it more to the confidence level he has, or doesn't have, in his roster. Brown has a million plays for any situation that he can pull out of his head in a moment's notice. I've seen him do it while giving coaching clinics, while talking basketball with him after a practice. But a play that requires a solid pick, a ballhandler who can make a strong entrance pass, or someone who can read a defender just doesn't seem to work because only one or two of those elements might work before the breakdown happens.
Jerry Colangelo will bring NBA talent to this roster next season. The Process is going to move ahead at a pace that may make Sam Hinkie's head spin now. Once that happens, it will be interesting to watch Brown coach a roster that can carry out the plays that he draws.
When heavyweights like Colangelo and Popovich, along with future Hall of Famers like Duncan and Parker, believe in Brown, it seems a no-brainer to have him on board as the bus moves forward.