It must be hard to be Brett Brown. The head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers is now in his third season of trying to turn general manager Sam Hinkie's combination tanking-art project into a functional basketball team. The results have been very, very bad — Brown has only 37 wins to his name and is currently overseeing an 0-15 campaign.
Through it all, he has to preach the importance of "learning how to win" and vague notions of progress despite the fact that the Sixers have, to quote one scout, "two big men who don't really fit together and the rest is a D-League roster." Brown must have known these results were a possibility when he signed up for the job and can't be cast as an innocent here, but he also came from the San Antonio Spurs and presumably doesn't much enjoy all this losing.
To make Brown's life a little easier, a group of Sixers fans has decided to extend some holiday cheer his way. The effort was started by Reddit user "Xepa," a season-ticket holder and MBA candidate at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, who just wanted to send Brown a fruit basket. Greater support has led to plans to gift spa materials, a chocolate basket, champagne, and a massage gift card. The campaign is ongoing on the crowdfunding site Tilt and has raised $372.55 from 49 donors as of this writing.
So, what's going on here? Is it a joke? Do these fans really want to thank Brown for his work? Enrico Campitelli of The 700 Level interviewed "Xepa," whose real name is Ron, to find out:
We're aware that Brett Brown signed a four year, $8 million+ contract. That's not the point. Money does not matter when you are in the moment and are suffering losses. Money does not shield you from the pain of pouring your entire soul into something only to see constant failure. [...]
The day we win, I already have a route mapped out to where I'm going to deliver the contents to (based off my Sixers contact as I am a season ticket holder). ... Since fruits are perishable, I'm holding off on that purchase until we actually win. [...]
As a season ticket holder, people say that the team is "cheating" me and wasting my money. That's further from the truth, as being a Sixers season ticket holder has given me incredible front office and player access to the team. It immerses me in the game I love, and you can't put a price tag on life memories.
Ron also notes that he supports Hinkie's approach to building the team — he does go to Wharton, after all — so it's not as if he is looking out for Brown because he feels like he's been put in an impossible situation. Nevertheless, the points about Brown's mindset and the broader point of the gifts are well taken regardless of your opinion of the Sixers' approach. Brown is in the toughest position of anyone at the franchise.
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Yet we hope that Ron and the fans who have joined him can also appreciate how ridiculous their gifts are. Fruit baskets and spa treatments are most commonly given to put-upon mothers and those who have just suffered a terrible personal loss, not basketball coaches who can't win a game. And Brown can always get a massage from the Sixers' training staff if he needs one.
Plus, Brown still has to go back to this team when his massage is done and his fruit basket is empty. It's a very thoughtful gesture. But no plush bathrobe or box of truffles can substitute for an NBA-level point guard.
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