Brett Brown's dad quietly helps him dodge the deluge

Brett Brown's dad quietly helps him dodge the deluge

Brett Brown was running late. His parents were in town, the Sixers' coach explained to the media pack before Thursday’s loss to Chicago, and he wanted to make sure they made it safely to the Wells Fargo Center through a "tsunami," as he described it.

"So we waited," he said. "And here I am. True story. Proud son."

His dad, Bob, is some five years removed from a 52-year run as a basketball coach (42 as a head man), at seven high schools and three colleges throughout New England. The elder Brown notably went 476-154 and won four state titles as a high school boss in his native Maine, one (in 1978-79) with Brett as his point guard.

An inductee in five halls of fame, Bob is now retired at age 79, or at least as much as he allows himself to be. He still does camps and clinics, still advises coaching friends whenever he's asked. And he takes in 10 or 12 Sixers games a year in person. The rest he watches on TV, either from the Florida retirement community where he and his wife, Bonny, live three months out of the year or in their home in Maine.

He sees things through a coach's eye, notices things the rest of us might not. Like, for instance, Dario Saric's jumper. The rookie forward needs to put more arc on his shot, Bob told his son recently, needs to get his legs under it.

Fair point -- or fayeh point, as Brett says in a New England accent tempered by the 17 years he spent coaching in Australia. (Hall of Famer-to-be Tim Duncan, with whom the younger Brown once worked as a Spurs assistant, has described the accent as “Bostralian.”)

Bob Brown stops far short of being a shadow coach, however.

"He just wants to let me coach and leave me alone," Brett said. "He feels there is a lot going on over my time here, and it's true. But I feel like when he has something, it's usually spot on. It's just delivered very, very infrequently."

The elder Brown confirmed as much when he met with three reporters outside the arena's family lounge before the 102-90 loss to the Bulls -- a game the injury-depleted Sixers trailed by at least eight for the final 22:50.

"I want to be the father that shuts his mouth," Bob said. "If he asks, I'll tell him. Other than that, I don't like to do a lot."

There is a cycle-of-life element to this. Bob was a taskmaster when he coached Brett at South Portland High (nickname: Red Riots) some 40 years ago. Didn't allow tattoos. Or facial hair. Or hair hanging over the collar.

Brett toed the line while in the gym. In the family's kitchen, not so much.

"We ruined many of my mother's dinners," the younger Brown said shortly after being hired as the Sixers' boss in 2013. "It's my nature to be a little bit challenging, and at times combative, so you jump through the hoops with him at practice, and then you'd come home and I'd say, 'Well, I don't agree with you. What are you going to do, suspend me from the dinner table?'"

Which is sort of how it is, not only for coaches and players but fathers and sons: There are times when you have to push them, knowing they will push back.

And there are times when you simply have to support them. Times when you have to walk them through life's tsunamis.

Which is where the two of them are now -- Brett, age 56, nearing the end of the fourth year of an ongoing rebuild, his record a staggering 75-251, but somehow still upbeat, still optimistic. And his dad marveling at his son's outlook.

"I couldn't do it," Bob said. "Even in high school when we lost, I'd get …"

And here he softly growled.

"He gets mad, he goes to bed," the elder Brown said of his son. "He gets up the next morning and boom -- he's going ahead. It's always positive. It's always going ahead. How he does it, I couldn't do it. … That's probably the thing that impresses me the most about what the last four years have been."

Bob Brown was a head man at all three levels of college ball, notably leading Southern Maine to the Division III Final Four in 1988-89, there to lose to a Trenton State team headed by Greg Grant, who spent part of his nine-year NBA career with the Sixers. Brown topped out with a four-year run at Boston University, his alma mater, as well as his son's.

It didn't go well -- the Terriers went 38-73 in his four seasons -- and he headed back to the high school ranks.

He said Thursday there were offers from Rick Pitino, under whom he served as an assistant while Brett played at BU, to come along to Providence in 1985 or Kentucky in 1989. The elder Brown declined to do so.

"I'm a Maine guy," Bob said. "Maine is my blood. I'm a small-town guy. It's not me. I think probably the best thing is, I know it's not me and I stayed the hell away from it."

Much less the sport's highest level.

"I coached 52 years, and I coached a game called basketball," he said. "And that's not pro basketball. And so, what (Brett) has to do and how he coaches is so different than anything in my college and high school career. I know the fundamentals, but I couldn't coach (in the NBA)."

He has watched, though, and he has learned. Some of that education has come through his attendance at training camp the last four years. He was there again last fall, when it looked like the team might finally turn the corner. When it looked like Brett wouldn't be coaching "basketball gypsies" anymore, as he once said.

And then …

"That last 30 minutes, when (Ben) Simmons broke his foot (in a scrimmage), I said, 'Oh my -- here we go again,'" Bob said.

There have been bright spots, like that 10-5 run in January, but the team is limping to the finish line.

Through a tsunami.

And every now and then, Bob reaches out and helps his son find his way through the raindrops. It's what dads do.

Young Sixers learn crucial lessons from 2 losses to NBA elite Warriors

Young Sixers learn crucial lessons from 2 losses to NBA elite Warriors


The Sixers received a crash course in top-caliber NBA basketball from the Warriors with two games in eight nights against the defending champions. 

Both were winnable games for the Sixers in the first half. Both were blown open by the Warriors in the third quarter. Both resulted in a Sixers loss.

This time, it was a 124-116 loss Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

Instead of taking silver linings and pats on the back, the Sixers are absorbing lessons, tried-and-true experience-based lessons from competing against the best in the league and watching it slip away. 

“They didn’t flip a switch,” Joel Embiid said Saturday. “We were just bad in the third quarter. But you’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They were aggressive and they were physical with us, especially in the second half. They did what they had to do, and they got a win.”

Protect the third quarter
On Saturday, the Sixers scored a scorching 47 points in the first quarter and led the Warriors 74-52 at halftime. That edge far surpassed their one-point deficit in last weekend’s game and put them on a commanding path at home.

The Warriors quickly dashed any hopes of an upset by outscoring the Sixers, 47-15, in the third. Steph Curry scored 20 of those points. That quarter set the tone for a Warriors' comeback win. Similarly, the Warriors outscored the Sixers by 15 points in the third during their 135-114 victory on Nov. 11.

“After coming out of halftime, we knew what we were getting into,” Embiid said. “We knew that the first game, we knew that tonight, that needed to stay locked in. We didn’t do a good job the first time and then the second time we definitely didn’t do a good job.”

Play aggressive and smart at same time
The Sixers committed seven of their 12 turnovers in the third, which led to 14 of the Warriors’ 47 points. Ben Simmons echoed Embiid’s opinion of needing to be more focused. The rookie point guard also noted the Sixers should have been better with defensive assignments and played more aggressively. The Sixers shot 1 for 7 from long-range and didn’t get to the foul line once in the third.

Simmons only attempted one field goal in the quarter. Brett Brown noted he played Simmons the entire second quarter and the first eight minutes in the third. The combination of a shorthanded eight-man rotation and the effects of coming off a West Coast road trip factored in. 

The Warriors, meanwhile, stayed cool and collected in the face of a 22-point halftime deficit. They bounced back to shoot 62.2 percent from the field in the second half. The Sixers noticed the Warriors’ unwavering self-assurance even as they fell further and further behind in the first half.

“There’s a confidence that they have in what they do and who they are that over the course of a full game," JJ Redick said, "if they play the right way, they’re going to have a chance to win."

Breaking the double team
The Warriors stifled Embiid in their first matchup (12 points). After watching his 46-point performance against the Lakers, which head coach Steve Kerr deemed “terrifying,” the Warriors knew they had to be extra cognizant of the big man, especially on his home court.

They once again swarmed Embiid with a double team, a defensive look he’s still adjusting to. Embiid felt the pressure. He committed three turnovers in the game-changing third quarter (five on the night). 

“I’m more impressed by what they do defensively,” Embiid said. “Especially for me, they really had me guessing. They double-teamed me the whole night, from the top, from the baseline, from the post fader. They really had me guessing.”

Remember what caused the loss
The Sixers had chances to hand the Warriors a loss, both at home and on the road. When they plan for the rest of the season, the months and months ahead, they can point to what they did right and just as importantly what went wrong in competing against a team as dangerous as the Warriors. 

"We feel good about how we played for large majorities of the game and then you just blink and you get hit in the mouth," Brown said. "The repetition of playing the NBA champs and feeling like you're there and then all of a sudden to zoom in and say why aren't we? Why weren't we? Where did the game change? And understand that better and try to fix it, try to arrest it. That's the benefit to playing them in close proximity."

Sixers-Warriors observations: 22-point halftime lead evaporates against defending champs

Sixers-Warriors observations: 22-point halftime lead evaporates against defending champs


The excitement of a monster first half and the letdown of a lackluster second.

The Sixers went through dramatic ups and downs Saturday night in a 124-116 loss to the Warriors that seemed like an upset early on but turned into a disappointment for them.

• The Sixers scored … ready for this? You sure? Forty-seven points in the first quarter. They led the defending champions by 21 during a quarter that prompted double takes at the scoreboard.

The Sixers put together enough noteworthy plays in the first 12 minutes for a highlight reel: one-handed dunks and three-pointers by Joel Embiid, slams by Ben Simmons and a steal followed by a trey by Robert Covington to name a few.

The team shot a monster 73.1 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from three, led by 4 for 4 from Covington in the first game since signing his contract extension.

• You didn’t expect the Warriors would be quiet out of halftime, did you? Veteran teams — championship-winning veteran teams — make adjustments. They outscored the Sixers, 47-15, in the third and took a 10-point lead heading into the fourth. Steph Curry netted 20 points in the quarter. The Sixers shot 1 for 7 from three during the third and did not hit a basket in the final 2:20 of the quarter.

• Where did the third shut down on the Sixers end? Simmons attempted just one field goal in the third (0 for 1) compared to eight attempts in the first half. JJ Redick (0 for 3 from the field) was scoreless, too. Adding to that, Embiid had two points and did not pull down a rebound in the quarter. (Saric had six.) 

• The problem with playing the Warriors is, give them an inch — in many cases, all they need is a deficit less than 20 points — and they will take advantage. Even though they looked completely out of the game in the first half, they have been there, done that and know how to flip the switch. 

• Twenty-plus point performances by Simmons (23 points, eight rebounds, 12 assists), Embiid (21 points, eight rebounds), Covington (20 points, six rebounds) and Redick (20 points) were not enough to overcome 35 points by Curry and 27 from Kevin Durant. 

• The Sixers and Warriors flip-flopped shooting halves: 59 percent by the Sixers compared to 47 percent by the Warriors in the first half. In the second, the Sixers shot just 38 percent while the Warriors knocked down 62 percent.

• Simmons did whatever he wanted early on.

There was this …

… and this

… to name a few.

• Injury update: Markelle Fultz (right shoulder), Justin Anderson (left leg), Nik Stauskas (right ankle), Jerryd Bayless (left wrist) and Jahlil Okafor (personal) were out for the Sixers. 

• In years past, the seats would have been occupied by those wearing Warriors jerseys for a must-see opponent in town. On Saturday, it was clear the fans came to the Wells Fargo Center to watch the home team. 

• The early matchup between Saric and Zaza Pachulia was intriguing to watch. They both bring international experience to the court and had been familiar with each other’s game before Saric got to Philadelphia: Saric following Pachulia in the NBA and Pachulia learning about Saric’s play in Turkey. Pachulia referred to the Sixers forward as a  “young, talented kid” and “smart” last season.

• Notes and Numbers: The Sixers tied the record for most points scored in a half (74) by either team at the Wells Fargo Center. … Redick netted career three-pointer No. 1,300. He currently ranks 15th among active players. … The Warriors improved to 4-0 in the next game following a loss. They were defeated by the Celtics on Thursday. … The Sixers have lost 10 straight against the Warriors. Their last win was on March 2, 2013.