How Brett Brown got Sixers through 'The Process'

How Brett Brown got Sixers through 'The Process'

Nineteen wins. Eighteen wins. Ten wins.

As the 47-199 record mounted over his first three seasons as head coach, the same question arose loss after loss: How does Brett Brown keep the Sixers together?

Those who played for Brown during this time could have given generic answers. They simply could have been happy for the chance to play in the NBA and commented on his optimistic demeanor.

When Henry Sims told the story about Brown dancing, though, it was clear there was more to their experiences with the coach than just going through the motions of losing basketball. Other players were quick to offer their enthusiastic responses, whether they had been on the Sixers for multiple years or 10-day contracts. 

Brown has the opportunity to coach a team on the rise next season. The Sixers are coming off a 28-win season. They have young talent, at least one future All-Star, a pair of No. 1 picks nearing their NBA debuts and a highly-coveted veteran free-agent signing. The playoffs even are in reach. 

To get a better sense of how Brown got his team to this point after the early years of “The Process,” the players explained it themselves last month at summer league.

Henry Sims
Two years have passed since Sims played for the Sixers, yet one specific afternoon stands out vividly. Sims played 99 games for Brown during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. 

“We had went on a road trip and lost like four straight. They were pretty bad losses. We got home and Brett Brown came in the gym dancing with the assistants. They had some song. It lifted guys’ spirits — life isn’t so hard playing basketball. 

“I give a lot of credit to Brett Brown because he kept everybody positive and in a good attitude. I know it was tough for him to walk in that locker room every day. As a coach, you want to win. He kept us going, he kept us working hard. If you were watching our practices, you would have thought we were one of the top teams in the NBA because of how hard we were playing in practice.”

JaKarr Sampson
Brown had a fondness for Sampson, exhibited when Brown said “I miss JaKarr” a day after Sampson had been waived. Brown admired Sampson’s spirited attitude, and the sentiment was mutual. Sampson suited up for 121 Sixers games over the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. 

“The energy he brings is natural. He’s very good with the young guys and keeping us energized and motivated when things aren’t looking good, he’s always there motivating us. He really cares about his players, that’s what makes him a good coach. Even now, he texts me sometimes now and then. He cares, that’s the key with him. 

“[He organized] a lot of team stuff, team dinners, we had a Christmas gift swap. He was really good at keeping us together and keeping us liking each other during that time. We never turned on each other. He kept the locker room a good atmosphere. Things are looking bright for him right now.”

Larry Drew II
Before Drew was on the Sixers' summer league roster this year, he was with the team for a pair of 10-day contracts during the 2014-15 season (he played in 12 games). While Brown made an impact on the court, Drew remembers very unique conversations away from the game. 

“A lot of people don’t know, I don’t watch too much television and when I do, I watch a lot of National Geographic, the History Channel, Discovery Channel. One of the first non-basketball conversations I had with Coach Brown was actually about the universe and the stars and the galaxy. That was one of the things that stood out to me. I’m a huge geek when it comes to stuff like that, and just the fact we were able to have an open dialogue about theoretical physics and what not, it was cool. He has a very open mind and he’s very easy to speak to.

“His spirits were never down. Even after losses, he never made it feel like we were doing anything wrong, per se, but that we were headed in the right direction and that it was a couple of little things we needed to tweak. I think that’s huge for a coach to be able to speak to his team in a way to make them feel that it’s going to be OK at the end of the day.”

Hollis Thompson 
Thompson was one of the longest-tenured players under Brown (September 2013 to January 2017). The two shared an interest for deep conversations about education and world events. Thompson played 256 games for Brown.

“He’s got a great attitude, a positive spirit. Even when you’re going through a tough year and losing a lot of games, he finds a way to get everybody going, get everybody excited to play. Even in the midst of a tough game, a tough losing streak, he finds a way to make you laugh or finds the positive in it. … You could see him for who he is as a man [talking about shared interests]. He’s a great coach, but he’s a great human being. I love that dude and I wish him the best.”

Kendall Marshall
Marshall’s stop in Philadelphia was filled with injuries and a crowded point guard position that kept him off the court. He played 30 games during the 2015-16 season. Nonetheless, Marshall barely had finished hearing the question about Brown when he jumped to answer with a strong tone of emotion. 

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Brown as a coach, from what I’ve seen as a father, as a competitor. His ability to come to that practice floor and game arena every single day with the intensity, passion, willingness to teach in those circumstances winning 10, 15, 20 games every single year, that’s one of the most impressive things that I’ve seen in the pro level. … He was always in a great mood, unless we were messing up (laughs). He’s always joking, that Boston accent is always strong.”

Chris Johnson
Johnson played for Brown during training camp and saw how he prepared the team for the regular season, even though the odds of winning were against it. His time with the Sixers spanned nine games over less than two months in the fall of 2014. 

“He brought a positive attitude to practice. He kept everybody’s spirits together. We kind of knew what was going on, but Brett was a great coach, he was a smart coach, and he had the best interest for his team and the players. In preseason, two-a-days, guys were tired, but one thing I always remembered was he always came in and tried to keep everybody’s spirits together, let everybody know it’s part of the grind and it makes you better.”

Brett Brown believes Ben Simmons is 'stone cold' Rookie of the Year

Brett Brown believes Ben Simmons is 'stone cold' Rookie of the Year

Brett Brown made his case for Ben Simmons to win top rookie honors, and Simmons agrees.

“He is the stone cold Rookie of the Year,” Brown said.

The Sixers head coach’s strong words came after Simmons recorded his 10th triple-double of the season Saturday in the Sixers' win over the Timberwolves (see observations).

With 15 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists in just under 30 minutes, Simmons posted a stat line that is becoming routine for the 6-foot-10 point guard.

“I think the play I’ve had over the season has been pretty consistent,” Simmons said. “I’m doing some things that haven’t been done in a while.”

Simmons is right. He already passed Magic Johnson for second-most triple-doubles by a rookie in NBA history and trails only Oscar Robertson in that category. The 21-year-old currently is averaging 7.9 assists, putting him on track to join Robertson as the only rookies to average at least 16 points, seven rebounds and eight assists per game.

In comparison to rookies around the league this season, Simmons ranks first in rebounds, assists and steals and second in scoring. 

For as well as Simmons is playing, there will be a tough competition for the award.

Like Simmons, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell is leading his team in the hunt for the playoffs. Mitchell is averaging 20.3 points (first among rookies), 3.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. He has scored 30-plus point in seven games, including a 40-point performance.

Forward Jayson Tatum also has been mentioned in Rookie of the Year consideration. Tatum is posting 13.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists on the Eastern Conference second-ranked Celtics.

"I’m not worried about putting up points every game,” Simmons said. “As long as we win, that’s all I’m worried about. I think everything else will come along with it. But that’s just not the way I play. I don’t need to score 30, 40 points every game. Now I can create 40 points by passing the ball, that’s easy to me."

The conversation about this award is far from over.

Pistons keep Sixers from clinching playoff spot

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Pistons keep Sixers from clinching playoff spot

DETROIT — Anthony Tolliver scored 25 points, and the Detroit Pistons made 13 3-pointers in the first half on their way to a 117-95 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.

The Pistons have won three of four, with the only loss in that span in overtime at Houston, but Detroit still trails Milwaukee by 5 1/2 games for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls have lost five straight.

The Pistons went 13 of 27 from 3-point range in the first half and led 66-47 after two quarters. Tolliver scored 16 points in the half.

Tolliver made six 3-pointers for Detroit and Reggie Bullock made four. The Pistons were 16 of 36 from beyond the arc through three quarters, but they missed all six of their attempts in the fourth. The franchise record for a game is 17 (see full recap).

Rockets set franchise wins record with victory over Pelicans 
HOUSTON — James Harden scored 27 points in three quarters and the Houston Rockets routed the New Orleans Pelicans 114-91 on Saturday night for their eighth straight victory.

The NBA-leading Rockets improved to 59-14 to overtake the 1993-94 championship team for the most wins in franchise history.

Houston never trailed and already had a huge lead to start the fourth before scoring seven straight points early in the period to make it 92-63 with 10 minutes remaining. Clint Capela had four points and a steal to lead Houston in that stretch. Capela finished with 18 points, 16 rebounds, three steals and tied a career high with six blocks.

The Pelicans, who were playing their fifth game in seven days, finally ran out of gas, and looked worn out from the start. Entering Saturday's game they had played on three consecutive nights from Tuesday-Thursday because of a rescheduled game and won all of them to extend their winning streak to four in a row (see full recap).

Gordon dishes out career high in assists in Magic win over Suns
ORLANDO, Fla. — There hasn't been a lot for the Orlando Magic to cheer about this season, so a victory over the Phoenix Suns and a couple of near triple-doubles by Aaron Gordon and D.J. Augustin were nearly cause for celebration.

Gordon had 29 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high eight assists in what could have been the first triple-double of his career in Orlando's 105-99 victory Saturday night. Augustin was even closer, getting 15 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds to help the Magic end a three-game losing streak.

Nikola Vucevic had 24 points and 11 rebounds.

"That was a pretty good all-around game," Gordon said. "If I draw attention from the defense, I pass and once the defensive attention leaves, I can score again so it's a balance that I'm still working on as a young player." (See full recap.)