Less than two months ago and things were pretty clear when it came to Brett Brown’s future as head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers: go deep in the playoffs, or get fired.
With a shortened season essentially a guarantee at this point, and a new playoff format also potentially in play, Brown’s status has become a bit more confusing than initially expected.
Calls for Brown’s tenure as a coach to end have been voiced as early as last season, when the team was underperforming despite spending big on the trade market. Owning the highest scoring starting five in NBA history by the end of last season, many fans felt Brown was holding the team back.
Despite the calls for a coaching replacement, the Sixers opted not to fire Brown following their game seven loss to the Toronto Raptors. Battling both injuries and a severely depleted bench, it was actually quite impressive how close the Sixers were to winning that series.
The 76ers massively shook things up this past offseason, bringing in two new starters and an entirely re-worked bench. Doubling down on their decision to push things into a “win now” mindset, the Sixers seemed intent on spending as much money and trading away as many assets as possible. By the trade deadline, two more new players had been brought in.
From the opening day of the 2018-19 season, Brett Brown has now coached 35 different players. Nine new players have come from this year’s season alone.
Elton Brand and the Sixers front office have routinely preached that they believe their current roster is “built for the playoffs”. With guys like Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson, and Ben Simmons all missing extended periods of action this season, we’ve rarely seen the full Sixers team in action at the same time. New additions Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks hadn’t even played 15 games yet with their new team before the league got shut down.
Like previously stated, it seemed pretty obvious entering into this season that Brett Brown’s job security rested on his ability to take his team deep into the playoffs. However, with the way everything has played out this year, it might not be that clear cut anymore.
Not only has a global pandemic derailed the NBA season, but Brown clearly hasn’t benefited from the organization’s roster decisions over the last few months. The Al Horford signing was a disaster, Josh Richardson has struggled to stay healthy, free agent signings like Raul Neto, Trey Burke, and Kyle O’Quinn have all flopped, and the team’s “win now” trades at the deadline never got the chance to make a serious impact.
Add in the shortened season and a potential whacky playoff structure, the 76ers genuinely never had a real chance to see their full team work things out together.
By no means is this meant to be a glowing recommendation for Brown as coach, his flaws are obvious. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sixers have a long and hard discussion about keeping Brett around after 2020, even if the 76ers are an early exit in the postseason.
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