Will Brett Brown follow Larry Brown's footsteps?

Will Brett Brown follow Larry Brown's footsteps?

August 20, 2013, 4:15 pm
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Brett Brown (left) inherits a Sixers team somewhat similar to that which Larry Brown took over in 1997. (AP)

In just over a month, Sixers new head coach Brett Brown will gather with his players and begin the rebuilding process that he and general manager Sam Hinkie and have laid out.

He is the team’s eighth coach in the last 10 years, a period of turnover that began with Randy Ayers, who took over for Larry Brown in 2003.

Interestingly enough, Larry Brown inherited a situation similar to Brett Brown's when he took the reins back in 1997. The team had won 22 games the year before, and had actually had five consecutive seasons where they won only 20 games or so.

The franchise needed a plan, some luck and the right coach to mold the future.

Then-president Pat Croce saw Larry Brown as that man. One year earlier, Allen Iverson was selected by the Sixers with the No. 1 overall pick. Iverson averaged 23.5 points, 7.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds his rookie year and did win rookie of the year honors.

But as we would later learn, Iverson needed a coach who could teach him to “play the right way,” and if not, at least surround him with players who would.

Larry Brown won nine more games his first season with the Sixers than the team had the year before he took over, finishing with a 31-51 record.

Unfortunately, Brett Brown will likely have an even tougher time his rookie season as a head coach because his roster is young and void of stardom. But like Larry Brown, Brett can use his first season to implement a system that fans will identify as Sixers basketball.

In the case of Larry Brown, his teams always defended. He also thought outside the box, not using the kinds of analytics popular today. He looked at Iverson’s skill set and, despite his 6-0 lean stature, moved him to the shooting guard position for the 1998-99 season, making Eric Snow his starting point guard.

Snow had been a perennial backup prior to that season, but proceeded to start 403 games of the 405 he played for the Sixers over the next six seasons.

Brown also developed a young Theo Ratliff at center, and trusted George Lynch and Tyrone Hill at forward. With the exception of Iverson, the roster was not made up of household names.

Perhaps similar to Brett Brown's situation, the pieces Larry Brown would make his run to the finals with were not in place when he took the job. The current Sixers will build through drafts over the next couple years; the Larry Brown Sixers were built through trades.

Aaron McKie, Hill, Ratliff and Snow were all trade acquisitions during Brown’s first two seasons. Lynch came on board as a free agent.

A winning record was the result of Brown’s efforts for five consecutive seasons, as were playoff appearances -- including the magical run to the NBA Finals in 2001.

A winner was built and it can be done again.

If Brett Brown can put a team out there this year that plays hard and is disciplined, people will suffer through the losses just as they did Larry Brown’s first season. And, if each year there is tangible progress, fans will stay interested.

Perhaps, in due time, the name Brown will again be associated with a winning Sixers franchise.

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