How 76ers firing Brett Brown could affect Bulls' coach search


Just under 24 hours after the Philadelphia 76ers were eliminated from the NBA Playoffs, the team fired head coach Brett Brown, per an announcement made Monday.

The Bulls, too, find themselves with a coaching vacancy after Artūras Karnišovas fired Jim Boylen earlier this month, meaning the news has a number of ripples in Chicago. 

For one: In Brown, a candidate with experience dragging the 76ers from the cellar of the league to playoff mainstay is now on the market. Of course, that description belies the unceremonious conclusion of his tenure, which featured a season that began with title hopes bumbling and stumbling its way to a four-game first-round sweep. Brown hasn’t been publicly linked to the Bulls.

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“We are really disappointed and know we let our fans down,” 76ers managing partner Josh Harris said in a statement obtained by Wojnarowski. “It’s unacceptable and it’s important that we all hold ourselves accountable.”

More pertinent to the Bulls is the status of known coaching target Ime Udoka, who just wrapped his first season on Brown’s staff in Philadelphia. The Athletic’s Shams Charania has reported Udoka, along with Los Angeles Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue, Villanova head coach Jay Wright and former Grizzlies and Kings coach Dave Joerger, as candidates to fill Brown’s seat. 

Udoka owns seven prior years of assistant coaching experience on Gregg Popovich’s staff with the San Antonio Spurs. Before that, he had a transient 12-year playing career that featured international stops in Argentina, France and Spain, and NBA stints with the Lakers, New York Knicks, Portland Trail Blazers, Spurs and Sacramento Kings. He’s known for his defensive scheming and relationship-building acumen.

Between the New Orleans Pelicans, Brooklyn Nets (should they move on from interim coach Jacque Vaughn) and now, the 76ers, the Bulls face tough, superstar-laden competition on the coaching market. How that crowd at the career fair impacts Chicago’s own search remains to be fully seen, but Udoka being linked to the 76ers puts at least one potential target at risk of being snapped up.

Will that speed up on Karnišovas' internal clock on making a hire? Take this for what it's worth:

"We’re not going to put pressure on ourselves to hire a coach by then," Karnišovas said when asked on a post-NBA Draft Lottery conference call if impending voluntary group workouts, for which COVID-19 testing begins Sept. 14, agreed upon by the league and players association would impact the coaching search. "If that happens, it happens. But we’re not going to insist on that.”

Safe bet the deliberate, block-out-the-noise approach he employed in dismissing Boylen will apply here, as well.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that, while general manager Elton Brand will continue to oversee basketball operations, Brown’s firing is a foreshadowing of front office changes to come. Philadelphia’s roster construction was widely panned throughout its underwhelming 2019-20 season, chiefly as it pertains to bloated five- and four-year contracts given to Tobias Harris ($180 million total) and Al Horford ($109 million total), respectively. Both Harris and Horford markedly underperformed in the 76ers’ first-round defeat, while Jimmy Butler, who the 76ers let walk, has led the Miami Heat to the doorstep of a convincing first-round victory.

As part of their own front-office facelift, the Bulls hired former 76ers vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley as their general manager under Karnišovas in April. Eversley had served in the former role in Philadelphia since 2016, initially under Bryan Colangelo, then Brand. 

NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Noah Levick described Eversley as a “leader in the basketball operations department alongside GM Elton Brand, executive VP of basketball operations Alex Rucker and assistant GM Ned Cohen,” also adding that Eversley played a key role in pre-draft processes for the team.