Methodically, quietly, the 76ers have gone through the process of hiring a new coach for a new era. It wasn’t a splashy move and we won’t know for a long time whether it was a wise move, but right now it is certainly the right move.
Brett Brown, a long-time assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs, will be hired, ending a process that started when Doug Collins stepped down on April 28. A lot of people – including former Sixers star Charles Barkley – think that process went on way too long and say the Sixers could have and should have hired Brown or somebody else a long time ago.
But give new general manager Sam Hinkie credit for his patience. He was in no hurry because he didn’t have to be. And by interviewing several other candidates he was able to pick their brains and get a feel for what other basketball people think about the NBA in general and the 76ers in particular. He had a chance to learn more about the league and his team and he took advantage of it.
Eventually, local sports fans stopped caring about the Sixers’ search, or at least stopped thinking about it, as their attention was diverted by the Phillies’ collapse under old manager Charlie Manuel and the Eagles’ potential rise under new coach Chip Kelly.
Also, the quest was a quiet one because the 76ers weren’t pursuing sexy names like Phil Jackson or Pat Riley or even a former Sixers player with a proven track record as a head coach in the NBA, Lionel Hollins. And while other teams in the Sixers’ division hired coaches who have been in the headlines many times before – the Boston Celtics hired Brad Stevens, who took Butler to two Final Fours, and the New York Nets hired Jason Kidd, a perennial All-Star player who will probably end up in the Basketball Hall of Fame – the Sixers ended up with a guy that probably 90 percent of their fans had never heard of before.
Whether you’ve heard of Brett Brown or not, there’s no question he has impeccable credentials and deserves a shot at a head coaching job. Brown, 52, spent 11 seasons as an assistant to a coach who will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, although Gregg Popovich did make a couple of coaching blunders that probably cost his team the 2012-2013 NBA championship. And even though Popovich is undoubtedly a great coach, he would be the first to admit that his success is mostly due from having Tim Duncan and Tony Parker on his team rather than his genius at drawing up Xs and Os.
So, Brett Brown won’t have a big impact, at least not right away. The Sixers are going to have a young team that lacks an identity, not to mention a superstar player or two, and it’s going to take time to put the pieces together — and that’s assuming the Sixers have the right pieces. It certainly doesn’t help that the prize of the 2013 draft, center Nerlens Noel, will miss the first part of the season with a knee injury. And even when Noel begins to play, he’ll need to pack some muscle onto his 6-foot-8, 228-pound body before he can have a real impact.
But at least he gives Sixers fans something to look forward to, as does their other first-round pick, point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Hinkie wisely traded point guard Jrue Holliday to New Orleans in the deal that got them Nerlens and that means Carter-Williams will get plenty of chances to strut his stuff.
It will also be fun to see how second-year man Arnette Moultrie progresses under Brown’s guidance. And maybe the most fun thing about watching Brett Brown’s Sixers team will be seeing a bunch of young, scrappy players going at it, as opposed to the old and/or disinterested players we were forced to watch last year, like Jason Richardson, Damien Wilkins, Nick Young and Dorell Wright. And, of course, there’s the bust we never even got to see, center Andrew Bynum.
So, the Sixers were patient when they hired a new coach and now Sixers fans need to be patient with the new coach as he rebuilds a team that was just a pile of rubble by the end of last season. This is a team that has had eight head coaches in the last 13 years and it badly needs some stability. That’s why Sixers fans should simply enjoy the process and, for now at least, have a little faith that it will lead somewhere.
Contact Kevin Noonan at email@example.com.