The Philadelphia 76ers have hired longtime San Antonio Spurs assistant Brett Brown as their new head coach, ending a coaching search that began nearly four months ago when Doug Collins stepped down following a disappointing 34-48 season.
Brown, 52, will receive a four-year guaranteed contract to lead the 76ers, according to Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen, who first reported the hiring on Monday. Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday that the Sixers were negotiating with Brown after meeting with him in New York last week. Brown beat out several other candidates for the job, including assistant coaches Jay Larranaga of the Boston Celtics, Adrian Griffin of the Chicago Bulls, Kenny Atkinson of the Atlanta Hawks, David Vanterpool of the Portland Trail Blazers and Michael Curry, who served on Collins' staff in Philadelphia. Brown had reportedly also been in the mix for the Denver Nuggets' vacancy earlier this summer before former Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw filled that opening.
You'd suspect the four-year guarantee reported by Thomsen was an important part of negotiations, given the likelihood that the 76ers — who are being dismantled and rebuilt by new general manager Sam Hinkie, a process kickstarted by the draft-night deal that sent All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for No. 6 overall pick Nerlens Noel, whose on-court debut remains uncertain as he continues to rehab after surgery to repair a torn left ACL, and a top-five-protected first-round pick in next summer's NBA draft — will be a very bad basketball team for the next year or two regardless of how sound a job Brown does.
The agreement — while not as long (or, presumably, as lucrative) as the six-year deal given to Brad Stevens by the Boston Celtics earlier this summer — gives Brown some time to develop center Noel, fellow 2013 first-rounder/point guard of the future Michael Carter-Williams and whichever young pieces emerge from next summer's cache of draft picks (two first-rounders and three second-rounders at present), and see if he can coax consistently meaningful contributions out of the likes of former No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner and offseason trade acquisition Royce White, while Hinkie and company go about the business of reshaping a roster low on both top-end talent and experienced contributors. The next competitive version of the 76ers surely won't look anything like the group Brown will be coaching next year; clearly, the four-year guarantee convinced Brown to ignore the reported advice of some colleagues and walk into a possible 60-plus-loss hit if it means a better shot at long-term success.
While next season will mark Brown's first campaign as an NBA head coach, it's far from his first trip around the league. He's been with the Spurs since 2001 in numerous roles — including five years as San Antonio's director of player development — and has spent the past seven seasons on the Spurs' bench alongside Gregg Popovich. He was expected to ascend to the role of Pop's lead assistant next season after the man who previously filled that slot, Mike Budenholzer, moved east to take the Atlanta Hawks' head coaching job, according to Woj; now, he'll take the big chair himself.
Brown has quite a bit of international head coaching experience, too, having won 149 games over nine seasons as a head coach in the Australian National Basketball League. He also led the Australian men's national basketball team to a quarterfinal appearance and seventh-place finish at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, highlighted by a 31-point blowout of host nation Great Britain and a thrilling win over eventual bronze medalists Russia on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by star point guard Patty Mills (whom Brown also coached with the Spurs). If he'd had longtime Aussie center Andrew Bogut healthy and available to man the middle, who knows what kind of damage Brown's squad might have done?
Brown's Boomers thrived when playing a tough, physical, swarming brand of defense predicated on forcing turnovers that would get Mills, crafty backcourt partner Matthew Dellavedova (who went undrafted out of St. Mary's back in June, but has received a training camp invite from the Cleveland Cavaliers) and lefty point forward-type Joe Ingles out on the break and in the open court. It remains to be seen whether Brown will favor a similar brand of pressuring defense and uptempo offense in Philadelphia, and whether he'll continue his predilection toward running Spurs-style sets in the half-court when things slow down, but it appears he'll have a few seasons to figure it all out. That stands to reason for a new-look 76ers organization that has shown, through embracing both a bottom-out youth movement and a months-long coaching search, that it's nothing if not patient.