Brett Brown was running late. His parents were in town, the Sixers' coach explained to the media pack before Thursday’s loss to Chicago, and he wanted to make sure they made it safely to the Wells Fargo Center through a "tsunami," as he described it.
"So we waited," he said. "And here I am. True story. Proud son."
His dad, Bob, is some five years removed from a 52-year run as a basketball coach (42 as a head man), at seven high schools and three colleges throughout New England. The elder Brown notably went 476-154 and won four state titles as a high school boss in his native Maine, one (in 1978-79) with Brett as his point guard.
An inductee in five halls of fame, Bob is now retired at age 79, or at least as much as he allows himself to be. He still does camps and clinics, still advises coaching friends whenever he's asked. And he takes in 10 or 12 Sixers games a year in person. The rest he watches on TV, either from the Florida retirement community where he and his wife, Bonny, live three months out of the year or in their home in Maine.
He sees things through a coach's eye, notices things the rest of us might not. Like, for instance, Dario Saric's jumper. The rookie forward needs to put more arc on his shot, Bob told his son recently, needs to get his legs under it.
Fair point -- or fayeh point, as Brett says in a New England accent tempered by the 17 years he spent coaching in Australia. (Hall of Famer-to-be Tim Duncan, with whom the younger Brown once worked as a Spurs assistant, has described the accent as “Bostralian.”)
Bob Brown stops far short of being a shadow coach, however.
"He just wants to let me coach and leave me alone," Brett said. "He feels there is a lot going on over my time here, and it's true. But I feel like when he has something, it's usually spot on. It's just delivered very, very infrequently."
The elder Brown confirmed as much when he met with three reporters outside the arena's family lounge before the 102-90 loss to the Bulls -- a game the injury-depleted Sixers trailed by at least eight for the final 22:50.
"I want to be the father that shuts his mouth," Bob said. "If he asks, I'll tell him. Other than that, I don't like to do a lot."
There is a cycle-of-life element to this. Bob was a taskmaster when he coached Brett at South Portland High (nickname: Red Riots) some 40 years ago. Didn't allow tattoos. Or facial hair. Or hair hanging over the collar.
Brett toed the line while in the gym. In the family's kitchen, not so much.
"We ruined many of my mother's dinners," the younger Brown said shortly after being hired as the Sixers' boss in 2013. "It's my nature to be a little bit challenging, and at times combative, so you jump through the hoops with him at practice, and then you'd come home and I'd say, 'Well, I don't agree with you. What are you going to do, suspend me from the dinner table?'"
Which is sort of how it is, not only for coaches and players but fathers and sons: There are times when you have to push them, knowing they will push back.
And there are times when you simply have to support them. Times when you have to walk them through life's tsunamis.
Which is where the two of them are now -- Brett, age 56, nearing the end of the fourth year of an ongoing rebuild, his record a staggering 75-251, but somehow still upbeat, still optimistic. And his dad marveling at his son's outlook.
"I couldn't do it," Bob said. "Even in high school when we lost, I'd get …"
And here he softly growled.
"He gets mad, he goes to bed," the elder Brown said of his son. "He gets up the next morning and boom -- he's going ahead. It's always positive. It's always going ahead. How he does it, I couldn't do it. … That's probably the thing that impresses me the most about what the last four years have been."
Bob Brown was a head man at all three levels of college ball, notably leading Southern Maine to the Division III Final Four in 1988-89, there to lose to a Trenton State team headed by Greg Grant, who spent part of his nine-year NBA career with the Sixers. Brown topped out with a four-year run at Boston University, his alma mater, as well as his son's.
It didn't go well -- the Terriers went 38-73 in his four seasons -- and he headed back to the high school ranks.
He said Thursday there were offers from Rick Pitino, under whom he served as an assistant while Brett played at BU, to come along to Providence in 1985 or Kentucky in 1989. The elder Brown declined to do so.
"I'm a Maine guy," Bob said. "Maine is my blood. I'm a small-town guy. It's not me. I think probably the best thing is, I know it's not me and I stayed the hell away from it."
Much less the sport's highest level.
"I coached 52 years, and I coached a game called basketball," he said. "And that's not pro basketball. And so, what (Brett) has to do and how he coaches is so different than anything in my college and high school career. I know the fundamentals, but I couldn't coach (in the NBA)."
He has watched, though, and he has learned. Some of that education has come through his attendance at training camp the last four years. He was there again last fall, when it looked like the team might finally turn the corner. When it looked like Brett wouldn't be coaching "basketball gypsies" anymore, as he once said.
And then …
"That last 30 minutes, when (Ben) Simmons broke his foot (in a scrimmage), I said, 'Oh my -- here we go again,'" Bob said.
There have been bright spots, like that 10-5 run in January, but the team is limping to the finish line.
Through a tsunami.
And every now and then, Bob reaches out and helps his son find his way through the raindrops. It's what dads do.