On the eve of a pivotal, win-or-go-home Game 7 matchup against the Atlantic division rival Raptors, a rather dubious outlook on the job security of Sixers HC Brett Brown was reported. Despite recording back-to-back 50+ win seasons, a feat the franchise hasn’t accomplished since doing so back in 1984 and ‘85, Brown may be forced to look for employment elsewhere if the Sixers fail to reach the NBA Finals this season- at least according to one high-profile NBA reporter.
According to a report from Marc Stein of the New York Times, the rumor mill hasn’t been too kind to Brown amongst NBA coaching circles:
The Sixers, meanwhile, will be swamped with what-next questions if
they don’t advance.
Beyond the uncertain fates of Butler, Harris and the sharpshooting J.J. Redick, rumblings in league coaching circles have grown louder by the day that 76ers Coach Brett Brown needs an N.B.A. finals berth to keep his job. Brown, I’m told, has little chance of surviving a second-round exit.
While anything short of an Eastern Conference Finals appearance this season would be a bit unsatisfying given the wealth of talent the team possesses, a Finals-or-bust mentality seems a bit excessive- especially if used as the basis for Brown’s continued employment. Just one game shy of their first ECF berth in eighteen years, expectations are understandably high for the Sixers. A win in Game 7 would not only dispel all doubts of them being incapable of defeating elite teams but would afford the Sixers the opportunity to prove themselves as such against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.
It’s important to remember just how quickly this all developed, however, as the Sixers were in the midst of ten consecutive seasons in which they won 43 games or less at the time of Brett Brown’s hiring. Under the tutelage, leadership, and blueprint of Brown, the Sixers have risen dramatically from league doormat to potential dynasty in just six years time. While super teams have begun to spring up seemingly overnight due to a much more aggressive era of free agency spending, the job Brown has done with the Sixers in such short time should not be overlooked or undermined by any means.
When Brown was brought on as head coach of the Sixers by ex-GM Sam Hinkie, the team’s main objective was to lose as deliberately and often as possible. Playoff- let alone Finals appearances- were the least of their objectives to begin the Brown era. With no superstars present to recruit fellow All-Stars to the City of Brotherly Love, Hinkie and Brown knew the fastest way to acquire elite talents was to be amongst the first to make a selection on draft day. So, instead of exhausting all their efforts on racking up meaningless wins en route to inevitable early playoff exits, the Sixers instead focused on establishing the culture and implementing the coaching tendencies of Brown that would be the team’s backbone when they were primed to compete again.
Although his former employer Sam Hinkie was unceremoniously forced out of the organization before he could reap the fruit of their labor, that day has arrived for Brett Brown. Mere hours remain before the conclusion of the highly-anticipated Game 7 matchup against the Raptors. And as Hinkie and Brown envisioned all along, it is the charisma, leadership, teachings, and in-series adjustments of Brett Brown that is pacing the Sixers on their quest to championship glory. Though the Sixers certainly possess enough talent to reach the Finals this year, their season should not be considered a failure if they are unable to reach that stage. Disappointment, maybe, but certainly not a failure.
Likewise, the superb job Brown has done navigating the Sixers passed the drama of burner accounts, key injuries, and the Markelle Fultz fiasco all the way to just one game shy of battling for the crown of the conference should not be unfairly scrutinized if his team falls short of their goal. With the season on the line in the series finale versus Toronto, Brown should be coaching for the survival of the Sixers, not that of his job security.