Former 76ers coach Larry Brown sees great hope as the organization moves forward after the firing Monday of coach Brett Brown, and a key to future success will be whether All-Stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid buy into the new coach’s program.
Brown compared the situation to when he had Allen Iverson with the Sixers. The two had some public clashes during their six years together, with the highlight coming in the 2000-2001 season, when the Sixers were Eastern Conference champions before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.
Brown recalled the turning point in his relationship with Iverson.
“One of the biggest things that ever happened to him and me was when I brought him in privately, I told him, ‘Allen, if you allow me to coach you, I’ll be allowed to coach all the other players.‘
Brown says Iverson didn’t understand at first what he meant.
“I said, ‘Allen, if the head coach is able to coach his best player hard and be fair and honest with him, it’s going to be easy with the other guys I coach and our staff coaches,‘” Brown said. “I think that changed so many issues that Allen might have had.”
Brown says the key will be how Simmons and Embiid allow the new coach to coach them.
Brown is a major fan of both Simmons and Embiid. He has seen them since they were in high school and he was recruiting as SMU’s head coach.
During a news conference Tuesday, Sixers general manager Elton Brand said he was not looking to trade Embiid or Simmons.
“I am a huge fans of both of these guys, and I think with Elton coming out and saying what he did, that’s a great message, and now Joel and Ben have to figure it out,” Brown said.
Brown said he felt bad for Brett Brown.
‘I hope they just don’t point a finger at him because I want to see him land on his feet and get another opportunity,” Larry Brown said. “I want Elton to bring somebody in and build on what I’m sure Brett was trying to do.”
Brett Brown was fired the day after Boston scored a 110-106 win over the Sixers to sweep them in four games in their opening-round Eastern Conference playoff series.
Simmons missed the series following knee surgery, and Brown said that was devastating.
“There are things that Ben Simmons does that allows you to do as a coach that are just remarkable on both ends of the court,” Brown said.
Brown said that this year’s team couldn’t make up for the loss of three players from the previous season.
“They lost Jimmy Butler, JJ Redick, and T.J. McConnell, three really quality people and quality players,” Brown said. “That’s hard to replace, and I hope people understand that. And I don’t want to sound critical of this, but Al Horford is a center.”
Horford was signed as a free agent to be the starting power forward and center when Embiid was out of the game. He and Embiid never jelled. During the playoffs, when they were on the court together they were outscored by 34.7 points per 100 possessions according to Basketball Reference.
Brown likes Tobias Harris as a power forward, not a small forward.
“I love him. I think he’s a nightmare,” Brown said. “I don’t think ‘four’ men could guard him. But it’s tough for him to guard ‘threes.‘ But I love him as a player, and he is an unbelievable guy. You are talking about character guys when you talk of Al Horford and Tobias Harris.”
Still, for the Sixers to reach another level, the big steps will have to be taken by Embiid and Simmons.
“I just hope they realize what they have in those two kids because they are really special,” Brown said.
Simmons, 24, is a two-time All-Star and Embiid, 26, is a three-time All-Star.