Brett Brown brings winning pedigree to Sixers

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Brett Brown brings winning pedigree to Sixers

Everyone loves a winner.

Brett Brown, the Sixers’ new head coach and 24th in franchise history, has had the good fortune of being around winning people for as long as he can remember.

“How lucky am I to be around the coaches I have been around?” Brown asked Wednesday at his introductory press conference. “I have been around Hall of Fame coaches. Coach (Gregg) Popovich is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. Rick Pitino, in September, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Last year, Lindsay Gaze, who is sort of the Pete Carril of the South Pacific with his motion offense, was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame. And my father, who raised me, has been inducted into the New England Hall of Fame. That is my background. The son of a coach, I have been around the game my whole life.”

Brown touched upon the many coaching influences he has had throughout his life. Perhaps the biggest one of those is Popovich, who Brown has spent the last 13 years with in the Spurs organization.

The longest-tenured coach in the league, “Pop” has a certain way of doing things. Members of his staff and his players understand you don’t venture far away from those principles.

“The first word that comes to mind is accountability,” Brown said of Popovich’s approach. “A mistake made against the Miami Heat in Game 6 is dealt with like we would deal with a mistake made at Charlotte in January. There is a brutal honesty in regards to accountability.

“There is a human side of Pop that a lot of people just don’t understand. He is a good man, but there’s a toughness and a competitiveness and a demanding, non-negotiable stance that you can’t help but bring with you. It is highly influencing.”

While having the right mentality goes a long way, Brown will be the first to tell you that NBA franchises win with stars. The Sixers will need to develop a star or attract one in free agency some time during Brown’s tenure in order to get the team among the league’s elite.
Brown was spoiled in San Antonio because the Spurs had a roster with three stars in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

“Those three guys are pretty special and the fact that they have been with that franchise their whole career is very unique,” Brown said. “Those guys are different cats character-wise. They come to practice, they buy in, there is a discipline to their attitude, a discipline to their diet and a discipline to showing up on time. They genuinely care. They want to get better.

“Isn’t it interesting when you ask somebody if they really want to get better? Some people like that question. Some people, it takes them back. It is a strong, honest question and those three guys really display what a professional does and needs to do.”

Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have 21 All-Star selections between them. The Sixers’ roster is currently void of any All-Stars. However, Brown believes the roster he has inherited is full of “workable pieces.”

“I have always been a fan of Thaddeus (Young),” Brown said. “I see in Evan (Turner) just that potential. You see the versatility of Spencer (Hawes). You get a taste of Michael Carter-Williams from what he did in college. I think you see what a healthy, fit Lavoy (Allen) could bring to the table.

“I think there are pieces there that we can build around, and I think there is a toughness that the city almost demands. I really look forward to seeing the young guys that we are going to try and bring along.”

Brown, who initially joined the Spurs as the director of player development, spoke highly of San Antonio’s tools for helping players progress. Just as he wants to maintain Popovich’s sense of accountability, Brown also plans to follow a similar model for bringing players along.

“I have seen guys over the years get floaters and jump shots,” Brown said. “I saw for many years people go under pick-and-rolls on Tony Parker and we learned how to take advantage of it, and he became a better shooter and so on. Everybody has his own road map.”

Brown begins his journey with the Sixers after securing a four-year contract from the organization. He understands winning and even more so the work ethic that must be put in to reach a championship level.

“I have been a part of five NBA championships and we won four,” Brown said. “I have been a part of five Game 7s. You appreciate how hard it is to be playing in May and how really hard it is playing in June.”

Brown’s challenge has officially started this August and the Sixers hope one day it can end with a championship in June.

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric came into the NBA knowing his rookie season would be one of ups and downs. He would have successes based on his talent and struggle because of the newness of the league and matchups.

Saturday’s performance against the Celtics was one of those highlight nights. Saric scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, both tying career-highs, for his third double-double. He was efficient in his performance, playing 27 minutes off the bench in the Sixers' 107-106 loss.

“I thought that was his best game as a 76er,” Brett Brown said.

Saric had struggled the night before against the Magic. He barely made a dent in 16 minutes, posting just two points (1 for 5 from the field) without a single rebound. The poor showing was on his mind Saturday, as he got ready for the second game of the back-to-back. He went in early to get up extra shots, met with coaches, studied film and thought about the matchup throughout the day.

“I prepared a little bit more for this game,” Saric said. “After I have some bad rhythm of five or six, maybe, games. Now I concentrate more. I try to give my best, try to play my best, try to think before everything happens.”

Saric showed his aggressiveness in crunch time in the fourth quarter, when he scored seven points and five rebounds in eight minutes. He nailed a three to cut the Celtics' lead to 92-91 with 4:28 to play. Then with 1:09 remaining, Saric’s free throws cut the Celtics' lead to two points. On the other end of the court, he snagged the rebound off an Isaiah Thomas miss and scored a game-tying layup from Jahlil Okafor.  

“He played great,” Okafor said. “He’s working hard every day, getting used to the NBA process. It was good to see hard work paying off for him.”

Saric has been adjusting to new roles throughout the season. He was thrown into the starting power forward spot when Ben Simmons was injured, and then moved to the bench when the team acquired Ersan Ilyasova. On Saturday, Brown also played Saric at small forward in Robert Covington’s (knee) absence, a shift the Sixers may try again.

“He’s a good teammate,” Brown said. “He’s biding his time. He understands he’s a rookie. Incrementally, he’ll be given these opportunities. Tonight he did and he responded and you’re seeing continued growth.”

Saric still is early in his NBA career, and Saturday's showing was a game he can look back on and study for the rest of the season. 

“I feel like tonight … you’d walk away and say, ‘Shoot, that’s a hell of a player for playing 20 games in the NBA and he did what he just did against a hell of a team,’” Brown said. “I’m proud of what we saw all over the place from Dario.”

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

As part of their “Salute Saturday” series, the Sixers honored the 1966-67 championship team at halftime of their 107-106 loss the Celtics on Saturday.

Fifty years after winning the title, the success of the squad (which went 68-13 in the regular season) still resonates with those representing the Sixers today. After all, they are the group Wilt Chamberlain described as “the best team ever.” 

“It’s just part of the history of this city and the organization,” said Brett Brown, who has established a relationship with Billy Cunningham through practice visits and emails. “There was a toughness with that team that he personified and the city sort of reflects. It’s stuff you hear me talk about all the time how you want our team to reflect the spirit of the city. That team did it.”

Prior to their tribute ceremony, members of the team reflected on their run in which they beat the San Francisco Warriors for the title. 

On Wilt Chamberlain
“Wilt was such a dominant figure, not only as a basketball player, but he’s almost bigger than the game,” Matt Goukas said. “He played so well, he was such a good team player – he started really passing the ball right around that time --and that enabled great scorers like Hal (Greer) and Billy and Chet Walker to do their thing, and Wilt was very happy to give them that leeway.”.

On fond memories
“It was a team that we played well together and we lived as a family and that’s what made it so good for us," Greer said. "A lot of fun, a lot of fun. We missed the next year, but 68-13 is not bad at all.”

“It’s hard to forget a situation like that where we had such a terrific team and the season went so quickly, we won so many games and then of course winning a championship,” Goukas said. “As a first year player I said, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be, I guess.’ But of course I never won another championship as a player, but we had such a terrific group of guys and true professionals that for me as a rookie, Billy Melchionni as a rookie, we really benefited from guys like Hal Greer, Wally Jones and Harry Costello, they really showed us the way.”

On team chemistry
“It was very difficult times when you look at the sixties from a social aspect,” Cunningham said. “Martin Luther King was killed the following year we won the championship. Race relationships weren’t the best. And this time, which was just about half black-half white, I’m not even sure, it was never an issue. That’s the beauty I think of being on a team you know getting to know people, you judge them as an individual and nothing more than that.”

“I think it was our coach Alex Hannum, for one (that kept the team together),” Greer said. “And of course the big guy. He held us together most of the time, he could rebound, play defense, do it all.”