CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown is staying in Philadelphia, and he had a lot to say Tuesday at his end-of-season press conference about the reports he might be fired, the culture he’s built with the Sixers and what’s next for the team.
Here are five takeaways from his press conference, which lasted almost 45 minutes:
Brown is rarely short on fire. He enjoys talking about his players, his program and basketball in general. His demeanor Tuesday, however, was different from the norm. This was a new level, even for him.
He was proud of the culture he has built in his six years as head coach.
People are treated well here. Forget my words, listen to the players. And so for us to be able to retain, recruit, grow, empower, watch this program unfold — are you serious? This is incredibly exciting. Here we are with a 22-year-old All-Star and a 25-year-old All-Star and people that want to be here, and Elton [Brand] is going to do his job, and Josh [Harris] and [David Blitzer] are so driven to provide the resources to win a championship. Look across the water. To me, it’s like, what are we missing? To me, we have everything we need to move this program forward. Your question about culture, we’re proud of the fights we’ve had to fight in order to do what we’ve done. Culture is a word that means something to me and means something to us. And I believe that we’ve delivered.
One exchange with a reporter about when exactly Brown learned he would indeed be returning as coach turned combative. Brown explained that Harris and he have had direct discussions throughout this tenure about his status as coach, with the last one occurring during the Toronto series.
“I was completely aware of how he saw my role in the future as the playoffs unfolded,” Brown said.
When the reporter asked Brown whether that meant Harris had told him he’d be staying on, his response was sharp.
“What language do I have to say it in? Yes.”
Thoughts on all the noise
Because Brown’s future — at least publicly — remained uncertain until late Monday night, his players supported him strongly at their exit interviews.
Brown said their support made him “proud,” noting it “validates in perhaps a more defined way that the program is on track.”
He didn’t have a problem with the Sixers’ organization putting his players in a position where, the day after a devastating loss, they had to be asked about their coach’s job status and whether he deserved to hold his role.
“This is my sixth year in Philadelphia,” he said. “I have been fired every one of these years. It’s true. It’s Philadelphia. Every single one of these years somebody has me not coming back. And it will happen again next year, early. I’m just fine with them not responding to the noise that surfaced.”
‘This is a destination’
Brown preached often about the Sixers being a “destination,” which makes sense given the Sixers have eight unrestricted free agents and two players with player options. Some of what he said was clearly catered toward those free agents. He preached about the Sixers’ culture, the city of Philadelphia, how his team shares the ball, and their potential to be a title contender, painting the Sixers as a team any player would enjoy being a part of.
Much of what he said, though, didn’t seem shrewd or calculated. He was blunt about the extent to which he feels the team has grown during his tenure.
“I put sort of my rearview mirror hat on and I remember going to PCOM,” he said. “We were in PCOM. Think about that — we were in PCOM. I had one court. I wouldn’t even go down to my players’ locker room. I was ashamed — I didn’t even want to go down there. And now we’ve arrived at a place where we have a chance for annual success. We have a chance to annually knock out 50-win seasons and truly contest for a championship. I can’t look at you more sincerely and say that. This is a destination. It wasn’t when I came here. In fact, it wasn’t even close.”
He wants to run it back
Unlike 11 months ago, when Brown was the Sixers’ interim general manager, decisions about the draft and free agency are not primarily in his hands. He said Monday “the money side of it all and the strategy of how do we build this team” will fall on Brand, Harris and Blitzer.
But Brown does have a strong preference to keep the core of the Sixers together. He spoke at length about his evolving relationship with Jimmy Butler and glowed about Tobias Harris’ basketball and human qualities.
“There is a connection from just a human being side that is also a fit for this program,” Brown said. “He’s incredibly polished; he’s elegant. He’s all class.”
Brown wants more than a mere 10 regular-season and 11 playoff games together with this starting lineup.
“The ability to have a team back and have corporate knowledge and continuity and carryover, that’s when you can take off,” he said. “That’s when coaching and playing has a chance to go to a higher level.”
The months ahead
Though reluctant to divulge too many specifics, Brown did express confidence that, through a “holistic” offseason program, Joel Embiid would arrive in September “in the best shape that he’s been since he’s been a Philadelphia 76er.”
He also addressed questions about Ben Simmons and his plan to continue working with his brother Liam on his shot this summer. Brown, who said he’s known Liam since he was 4 years old, disagreed with the notion that Simmons might not be challenged enough by his brother.
“In fact, I think that with the family there is an insulation, in a good way, to call him out, to help him get into a gym,” Brown said.
An offseason priority for Brown himself, outside of free agency and the development of his young stars, will be revamping his coaching staff. With the departures of Billy Lange and Monty Williams to take head coaching jobs with Saint Joseph’s and the Phoenix Suns, respectively, Brown has two spots to fill:
“As I search and try to find with Elton who’s going to be on the bench, what are we going to do behind the bench, there are skills, there are ways people see the world — are you an offensive guy or are you a defensive guy type of thing that will factor into the new hire. As time unfolds, I think in the next month, we will be able to make who’s going to be replacing Monty, as an example.”
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