First-year coach Brett Brown had it tough last night as he faced off against his former team, the San Antonio Spurs. Brown spent the last seven seasons serving as an assistant coach to Gregg Popovich on the Spurs. Popovich and the Spurs defeated the Sixers 109-85 Monday night.
Despite the fact that the San Antonio Spurs are a gold standard in the NBA, the Sixers have lost four of their last five games. And although the Sixers came out fast and strong early this season, they are far from being an elite team, but Brown knows that.
“What you saw was the extremes of a team that has been together and [moves] the ball and [shares] the ball and played freely versus the team that became static and stagnant and tried to do it individually,” Brown said post-game
The Sixers had no rhythm to what they were trying to do offensively. Brown said that carried over to other facets of the game. The biggest one was players’ holding onto the ball too much, denying opportunities for teammates. But superstar players don’t create championship organizations. That type of development begins at the top.
First-year Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie offered Brown a four-year contract in August to help build his vision of a championship-caliber basketball team from scratch, using cornerstones that include two rookie first-round draft picks in point guard Michael Carter-Wiliams and center Nerlens Noel, who may not play this season because of a torn ACL.
The Sixers are also likely to have two first-round picks next offseason. Next year’s class is widely predicted to be the deepest and most talented draft class in a decade. Brown also envisions the Spurs as a model for what the Sixers hope to become later down the road.
“They’ve had an opportunity to build a culture,” Brown said. “You don’t use the word culture without respect for what it really means. People kick around that word like it’s a word. It takes time. Never can you associate culture without applying longevity. And there had been a length of time that that group has been with each other.”
Time, patience, and precision are what Brown needs to mold the young squad into well disciplined athletes. He has built a career out of turning straw into gold, forcing the best out of his players, and providing the crucial elements in creating a winning culture.
Center Spencer Hawes, who scored 17 points to go with 13 rebounds Monday night, realizes that the Spurs are the team Brown is striving for.
“They are the model,” Hawes said. “You take away one thing, they have another way to beat you. They have such good chemistry with one another. Even without Tim (Duncan) in there, they slide another guy in and the machine keeps running.”
Where Brown can’t be measured is his off the court impact on the psyche of his players. All his significant qualities are things that Popovich has seen in Brown since they first met.
“Brown accepts his players’ weak spots and they will respond every time. He’s a great confidence builder. He knows how to make players feel like they’re the greatest to ever play that position.”
But Brown is starting fresh and he knows it will take time. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
“The undercurrent behind the scenes is detail and pride for day-to-day work. And that’s in all areas. It’s not just what you do on the court. It’s how you act in all capacities and how you build a program,” said Brown.
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