A lot has changed in six years.
When Brett Brown was hired as the Sixers' head coach, the Doug Collins era had just ended, Sam Hinkie was about to perform a massive roster overhaul and the team practiced at an embarrassing facility unfit for an NBA team.
Brown didn't exactly inherit a dream job. He inherited one that was perfect for him.
Since then, the Sixers opened a beautiful waterfront practice facility to go along with a roster chock full of superstars. With that has come a sharp uptick in expectations and a tremendous amount of pressure on the head coach.
Brown gets all that. It's part of the gig. He has thick enough of skin to handle it.
Though a nice chunk of the fan base will disagree, Brown is the right coach for Philadelphia.
We all love drama here in Philly. There's a reason the backup quarterback is everyone's favorite player and the coach is to blame for all of the team's shortcomings.
Brown also gets it.
"This is my sixth year in Philadelphia. I have been fired every one of these years," Brown said. "It's Philadelphia. Every single one of these years, somebody has me not coming back. And it will happen again next year, early. So this is just the way it works in my industry, in this city."
Yeah, nailed it.
The guy just won 50 games in back-to-back seasons. That hasn't happened for this franchise since 1986. The Sixers advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the second straight season. That hasn't happened since 2001. That was also the last time they advanced to the conference finals.
Brown is likely not the next Gregg Popovich, but who the hell is? Which current NBA coach would you look at and say, "That team wins because they have a great coach?" Obviously the Bucks improved greatly after Mike Budenholzer took over, but he also has an actual freak on his team. Glenn Rivers also did a tremendous job with the Clippers this season, so that makes maybe … three?
But what are you looking for if you want to move on from Brown? Jay Wright? Wright has a pretty fantastic gig and has done a fantastic job at Villanova. Given the success rate of college coaches in the NBA, you expect Wright to lead a team to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first season with no NBA experience?
You have to be realistic. Brown may or may not be the guy who's going to lead the Sixers to a championship, but you have to have a better option if you're ready to move on. Otherwise, you're just making a change for the sake of change.
And that's a dangerous proposition. Brown has been the only stabilizing force in this organization. The team is on its third GM – fourth if you include Brown's three-month stint – and has dealt with its fair share of turmoil and roster turnover. Brown has survived and built something that he can be proud of.
"How many programs in the NBA can feel like we have a chance at annual success?" Brown said. "It's still, as I look in the rearview mirror, the thing that San Antonio should get the most credit for. They don't go away. And so here we are with a 22-year-old All-Star and a 25-year-old All-Star, and people that want to be here. ... To me, it's like what are we missing? We have everything that we need to move this program forward. … We're proud of the fights that we've had to fight in order to do what we've done. Culture is a word that means something to me. It means something to us. And I believe that we've delivered."
Tuesday's press conference may have been the most impassioned and demonstrative we've seen Brown during his tenure with the Sixers. It's another reason he makes so much sense for this city. Nobody will ever question whether he cares. He's fought for his job and for his players.
Brown looked toward the window, motioning across the Delaware River at the city of Philadelphia from the team's state-of-the-art, 125,000-square-foot facility on several occasions. He's ingrained here and so is his culture.
"If you can sort of live by a principle, if you can help others, invariably you're probably going to help yourself," Brown said. "And that grossly abused word 'culture' has been achieved here. None of us could deny that. You can challenge it on different fronts, but in general, this is a hell of a destination. 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?"
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