Former 76ers coach Larry Brown has always been a big fan of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, having scouted both when he was a college coach at SMU.
He’s just as excited about the two All-Stars who now get to work under Doc Rivers, named last week to replace Brett Brown as the 76ers coach. Rivers has coached 20 full NBA seasons, with stops in Orlando, Boston and Los Angeles, where he stayed for seven years as head coach of the Clippers.
“A lot of people used to call me all the time about my assistants, asking what would they bring, are they a defensive or offensive guy,” Brown said in a phone interview. “I would laugh, this is not football with coordinators, I don’t understand that line of thinking.
“He is a coach,” Brown said. “He can make players better, they respect him because he won a championship and was a great player in his own right.”
Rivers guided the Celtics to the 2008 NBA championship, and played point guard in the NBA for 13 seasons, making one All-Star team.
“My experience with Doc, the thing I like about him, he is a decent human being who loves his job and loves the players he coaches,” Brown said. “I think that is important when you’re an NBA coach to have the players understand that you care about them.”
Brown feels that Simmons and Embiid can prosper together, and he thinks Rivers will bring out the best in both.
“People are critical of Ben Simmons because he doesn’t shoot a three,” Brown said. “Ben Simmons is such a unique talent, just give him the ball and let him play. He is as good a defender as there is in the league. Don’t spend so much time harping on what the kid can’t do.”
Brown said what has to happen for Embiid to take the next step is simple.
“Get Joel in shape where he can play more than six minutes at a clip, and he will be the most dominant big man in the league,” Brown said. “I think Doc will do that. He is a quality coach and quality human being in the best city in terms of the fans being loyal and caring.”
Brown coached Rivers for a half season in 1992, when he was named the Clippers coach in February of that year. The Clippers made the playoffs for the first time since they moved from Buffalo to San Diego, and then Los Angeles before the 1978-79 season.
“Doc was a helluva leader and unbelievable competitor, and as a coach you valued guys like him and their impact,” Brown said. “I am not surprised he decided to coach. I am sure Doc had other avenues he could have done as well. I thought he did an amazing job as a [television] commentator, explaining the game and not bringing much attention to himself when he explained the game.”
Brown reiterated that the Sixers organization is in good hands with Rivers.