This month seven years ago the 76ers hired Brett Brown as head coach.
August, a typical barren period in the NBA schedule is anything but this season.
It’s highly likely this will be Brown’s final regular season games. His tenure, marked by tanking, a rotating cast of point guards, injuries, sheer weirdness, has remained a hotly debated topic among Philadelphia fans.
You can’t overlook his positivity. You’d be hard pressed to find many coaches who could have dealt with the losing and the lack of talent. For three straight years, the 76ers, both intentionally and due to unfortunate injury, were overmatched basically every single game.
Robert Covington became an above average starter—a mainstay until his eventual inclusion in the Jimmy Butler trade. It’s astonishing to reminiscence on the collection of players Brown had as his disposal, especially after trade deadlines during his first two seasons. Who could forget the 10-win year three which ended in Sam Hinkie’s firing and MVP chants for Carl Landry in a win over the Pelicans. James Anderson, BJ Mullens, JaVale McGee, Elliot Williams, Eric Maynor, Daniel Orton, the list goes on and on. And gets funnier and funnier. Philadelphia traded for Andrei Kirilenko and Danny Granger at one point, even though neither played a game. Brown went through all of it. Until he finally had substantial talent.
The 16-game winning streak to close out the regular season two years ago might have been the high point for Brown, which is difficult to comprehend. It’s the best Philadelphia looked for a stretch of basketball. Even though it was mainly a cupcake schedule, the 76ers had an important win against the Cavaliers to position themselves as the three seed in the East the first season Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons played together.
Philadelphia fans couldn’t wait for more.
This team had a chance to make the Finals that season. Nothing would stop them. The Celtics winning without much issue in the conference semifinals halted the excitement as Aron Baynes became a thorn in Embiid’s side, tempering expectations. Brad Stevens took away Simmons completing, greatly exposing Brown’s coaching ability in the process.
I tossed it up as—let’s wait and see. Give Brown a chance.
The Bryan Colangelo burner Twitter account bombshell by The Ringer shocked everyone mere weeks after Boston won four out of five against the 76ers, embarrassing Philadelphia once again by placing a negative light on the franchise. Brown received a contract extension days after the story broke, which resulted in Colangelo’s firing. Colangelo didn’t hire Brown. Many speculated Colangelo wanted to go in a different direction. Alas, he never had the opportunity.
Philadelphia tried to get LeBron James that summer. Paul George opted to stay in Oklahoma City. Still, the 76ers found themselves in a great spot, fresh off a 52-win season.
Brown experienced the Colangelo burner Twitter account firsthand. He watched video of his starting rookie center in 2015 pick a fight in the streets of Boston following a November loss. A game in 2016 against the Kings was postponed minutes before due to condensation on the floor. Brown has been through it all.
Nothing is weirder than whatever the hell happened to Markelle Fultz and his jumper.
Brown couldn’t have anticipated it. Nobody could have. Fultz looked as advertised in Philadelphia’s summer league games until an ankle injury sidelined him. He then tinkered with his shot. The 2017 first overall pick—the person who’d fit in perfectly next to Simmons and Embiid—played 33 games over two seasons before being traded to Orlando. It didn’t make sense. One of his free throw attempts during his rookie season went viral for all the wrong reasons.
Of course, the 76ers traded for Butler and then later Harris. But they weren’t this dominant team with the acquisitions. The playoffs, however, proved to be a different animal. Philadelphia went toe-to-toe with the eventual champs, losing a heartbreaker of a Game 7 in Toronto. Run it back, a popular phrase to signal maxing out Butler and Harris while giving JJ Redick another contract, lasted until the day before free agency began in July with Butler rumored to have his eyes on Miami. Pivoting, the 76ers ended with another big man in Al Horford, in addition to choosing Harris for five years over Butler. This was their team.
To say this year has been a disappointment is an understatement. Simmons refused to really shoot. Embiid looked out of sorts at times. The offense sputtered, which made even the diehard Brown supporters question his validity moving forward. Philadelphia didn’t get into half-court offense as effortlessly as other teams with lesser talent seemed to do.
It’s part of a problem with having your best offensive player as a true post-up player.
Still, despite early struggles against inferior teams, the 76ers smacked the Heat in November, dismantled the Bucks on Christmas Day and beat both LA teams within weeks of each other. Once the playoffs began, many convinced themselves, this team would show their true selves.
Simmons hurting his knee last week all but squashes Philadelphia’s season and Brown’s tenure with the 76ers.
A change at top must happen.
There’s no more wait and see. This team failed to earn a top-4 seed in the East. Since Embiid and Simmons are more important, Brown is the odd man out.
Seven years ago Brown arrived in Philadelphia as the face of the franchise who underwent the most talked about rebuild in the history of the NBA. Everyone had an opinion of The Process. Brown saw it from the near beginning.
I wanted him to be the coach that led them deep into the postseason. I wanted to see him experience that joy after so much turmoil.
But it’s time for someone new.