KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Is this all Brett Brown’s fault?
Sometime soon, the 76ers’ coach is expected to be relieved of his duties. The coach is expected to take the $10 million remaining on the final two seasons of his deal and start anew.
It has a lot to do with the current state of the Sixers, who failed to live up to their lofty expectations and self promotion. The squad that repeatedly proclaimed they were “built for the playoffs” is one loss away from being swept in the first round.
The Boston Celtics carry a commanding 3-0 series into Sunday’s 1 p.m. Game 4 matchup. No NBA teams has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. And there doesn’t appear to be a sense of urgency from the Sixers to be the first.
Instead of practice on Saturday, the Sixers had film study, which was followed by optional shooting. There was no media availability, which was maybe a good thing, because Brown was destined to be bombarded with questions about his coaching future.
Following Friday’s 102-94 Game 3 loss, the coach said he’s not thinking about his future. The expectation was that he would have to make a deep postseason run to retain his job.
“I understand the circumstance,” Brown said Friday night. “My job is to focus on what I really can do. My players deserve that. I’ve been in the city seven years and tonight’s loss is what’s most on my mind.
“My effort truly is to try to find a way to win, and keep this series alive. Do my job for my players.”
The Sixers hired Brown on Aug. 14, 2013 following a long stint with the San Antonio Spurs.
At that time, the Sixers’ ownership group was obsessed with anything San Antonio did. To the owners, the Spurs were the gold standard.
But at the end of the day, Brown was hired to win games.
Brown initially took a volunteer job with the Spurs in 1999. He held that job for a year and returned to San Antonio as the director of player development in July 2002 before moving to the bench as an assistant coach for the 2006-07 season.
The Sixers hired him to develop players during the tanking seasons of “The Process.” The belief was that someone else would have the head coaching job once the Sixers started to turn things around. But the 59-year-old stayed.
He’s had some success following three seasons of tanking under Sam Hinkie and a transition season under Bryan Colangelo.
The Sixers’ 52-win season in 2017-18 ended in a five-game conference semifinal loss to the Celtics. Last season, Philly won 51 games and concluded its season in a seven-game conference semifinal loss to the Toronto Raptors. That game ended with Kawhi Leonard’s four-bounce basket at the buzzer.
According to multiple sources, Brown had a hand in breaking that team up because he didn’t want to deal with Jimmy Butler, who was the team’s closer and who’s never afraid to speak his mind.
So the Sixers moved on from Butler and brought in Al Horford, and this season was a major letdown.
Part of the problem with the Sixers is a heavy reliance on analytics instead of a feel for the game. They also try to fit players into a certain scheme instead of taking advantage of individual skill sets. That has led to veteran free-agent and/or trade acquisitions of Sergio Rodriguez, Jerryd Bayless, Wilson Chandler, Amir Johnson, Trevor Booker, Butler (in the regular season), and now Horford and Tobias Harris failing to live up to expectations.
The Sixers have become a place where most veterans have had their careers go to die. The Sixers don’t hold their marquee players accountable, and players have complained that their roles have not been defined.
From the start of “The Process,” young lottery picks were treated like NBA All-Stars even before they played in their first NBA games. As expected, that gave them a sense of entitlement.
Standouts like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons could basically do whatever they wanted to do. Heck, they still do.
But who’s fault is that?
Is it the coach’s, front office’s or ownership group’s responsibility to change?
And is it fair to assess Brown this playoff series with Simmons (left knee surgery) sidelined? And what about the financial reality of letting him go?
The Sixers would have to pay Brown $10 million, in addition to paying a high-level coach to replace him.
Those are a couple of factors for the ownership group to consider.
But it’s hard to believe Brown will return, especially if the Sixers get swept by the Celtics. The Sixers boasted about being built for the playoffs. They also have more than $400 million tied up in Embiid, Simmons, Horford, and Harris over the next several season. Yet their championship window is about to close.