Over the last five seasons, no coach in the NBA has gone through more adversity than Brett Brown.
The 76ers coach may disagree.
Look at the path the former highly successful assistant in San Antonio had to endure when coming to Philadelphia. Sam Hinkie’s disgraceful Tank-A-Thon led to 75 victories over four seasons and players such as Casper Ware, Sonny Weems and Kendall Marshall. The Sixers were lucky to reach 10 wins a couple years ago and avoid breaking the franchise’s nine-win mark in 1972-73.
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Finally, after four years of being awful, the Sixers are relevant. They’re 38-30 and eight games above .500 for the first time since 2012. They’re likely headed for the playoffs barring a catastrophic collapse. They’re fun, young and exciting.
Ben Simmons is making a strong case for Rookie of the Year. Joel Embiid is making incredible progress after missing his first two seasons with injuries and only playing 31 games last year.
JJ Redick has been a terrific free agent addition with his shooting and leadership.
T.J. McConnell is one of the most improved players in the league.
Dario Saric is turning into a legitimate threat every night.
Veteran pickups such as Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova have loomed large.
Are there issues? Of course. Hence the ongoing adversity.
Robert Covington has been less-than-consistent since signing a $62 million extension. Amir Johnson looks old. Richaun Holmes probably needs to be on the court more. The bench overall is razor thin.
Through it all, the Sixers are 38-30 and look to be ready for playoff basketball following the final 14 regular season games.
Brown has done an outstanding coaching job and it’s a journey which started five seasons ago through so much turmoil and tanking. No other coach likely would have lasted this long. Even Gregg Popovich, Brown’s mentor with the Spurs, has repeatedly said he never would have been able to survive all these losses.
Brown has been the players’ coach, mentor, teacher, psychologist and spokesperson. The Sixers wouldn’t be in this position without him. Other coaches will be nominated for Coach of the Year.
Brown deserves the award.
He never stops teaching. The players are learning and developing.
“I think it lets them know, because we’ve been on the other side of that as well, that we do have the people,” Brown said following the Sixers’ 38th win of the season Friday night against the Brooklyn Nets. “I believe we have the structure. They have shown they have the poise to be able to walk a game down. I liked what they did situationally fouling appropriately when we were up three and waiting and waiting and then T.J. used a foul. I think that the big defensive rebound that Joel had on that missed free throw was big. I feel like schematically we all feel comfortable as a team that we can walk a game down and those guys did that.”
The playoffs will be the next challenge. It won’t be easy, but nothing about this journey has been simple. Brown has been there for every painful – and now exciting – step.
Guiding young teams through grueling seven-game series in the postseason is much more challenging than any regular season game.
Brown will be ready to lead the Sixers.
The Coach of the Year deserves this award and the reward of the postseason.