LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Boston Celtics had just swept the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs with a 110-106 victory that could seal the fate of one head coach.
After the final buzzer sounded in what was a “home” game for the Sixers, most of the players and coaching staff had exited the court, but there were a few who remained.
While Celtics star Kemba Walker was doing his walk-off interview following a 32-point performance, an interesting song began playing: “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” by Boyz II Men.
Within coaching circles, the anticipation is the Sixers will part ways with head coach Brett Brown in the coming days, league sources told Yahoo Sports. His contract runs through the 2021-22 season.
Brown was brief when asked how disappointing it was to end the season this way.
“I mean, it’s difficult,” he promptly replied and then waited for the next question.
Brown, who was chosen as the coach of “The Process” seven years ago, never grabbed full command of the locker room during his tenure, sources said.
“I’m not the GM. I don’t make the decisions,” Joel Embiid said Sunday when asked about the future of his coach. “All I know is that we have a great organization and a bunch of great people.”
Players often questioned Brown’s game plan on specific matchups, and there was a lack of trust that permeated the locker room and an inability to hold players accountable, sources said.
Al Horford, one of the more silent and reserved players in the league, stated before the season went on hiatus that he was frustrated by not having a defined role communicated and established with him.
The handling of rookie Matisse Thybulle, who has demonstrated he’s an elite defender, was a head-scratcher. His minutes fluctuated at bizarre junctures, leaving some in the locker room to wonder if Brown had an axe to grind with the youngster, sources said.
Asked Sunday if Sixers fans were able to see the best of what he had to offer as a coach, Brown simply replied, “No.”
“I don’t think there was much accountability this season and that was part of the problem,” he said following the season-ending loss. Tobias Harris — who finished with 20 points and five boards and had a scary fall Sunday — took some responsibility, saying he needed to look in the mirror and become a better leader.
The lack of accountability and leadership was glaring this year.
Last season there was a concern about the fit of Jimmy Butler, who is now thriving with the Heat and one game away from sweeping the Indiana Pacers.
Butler was lukewarm on re-signing with Philly last offseason and the organization was aware, but the Sixers were still prepared to offer him a max contract if he wouldn’t take any recruiting visits, sources said.
Butler did not agree to that stipulation, sources said, and both sides ended up parting ways. Butler was a force for the Sixers and proved to be their finisher down the stretch, but he wasn’t sold that the team was invested in winning, and his leadership style rubbed some the wrong way at times.
Brown didn’t appreciate how outspoken Butler was with his coaching tactics, and Ben Simmons once took issue with a text message Butler sent in a team group chat that instructed Simmons what not to do in an upcoming game against Brooklyn, sources said.
The Sixers dealt with multiple injuries during this season that compounded other issues. It was a massive blow when Simmons was lost for the season due to a knee injury he sustained in the seeding games.
Embiid, the team’s franchise player, downplayed the team’s troubles.
“That’s a very stupid question. There’s no issues,” Embiid responded after recording 30 points,10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. “We just didn’t win.”
In order for the Sixers to win consistently and transform into the championship contenders the franchise has envisioned, a change has to be made.
Even without Simmons in the lineup, the first-round sweep was unacceptable.
More from Yahoo Sports: