The Philadelphia 76ers took a long, convoluted route to finding the man they wanted to replace former head coach Doug Collins. The man they selected might not take the job however, as ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that San Antonio Spurs assistant Brett Brown is being urged to pass on the Sixers’ offer.
Turning down a head coaching job would be a big decision for an assistant that wasn’t even the top guy on his own staff — that honor goes to new Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer — but it could pay off for him in the long run.
The Sixers aren’t expected to be competitive in their first season under new general manager Sam Hinkie and are widely considered the favorites for a top pick in next year’s loaded NBA Draft. If Brown endures a sixty-loss season, the first-year head coach would be starting his stateside career in quite the hole and without much to add to his resume if he’s canned for a higher-profile coach next season. That could put Brown in the company of a guy like Mike Dunlap, who coached an already bad Charlotte Bobcats team to a 21-61 record last season before being replaced after just one year on the job. Kevin O’Neill, Sam Vincent, Quinn Buckner, Jeff Bower, Johnny McCarthy, John Wetzel, Leonard Hamilton and fellow candidate Michael Curry were also canned after their first season as an NBA head coach — and none of them have been able to get another head job since.
If the Sixers aren’t going to give Brown enough money and job security to prove that they want him for the long haul — and not just as a cheap Band-Aid while they rebuild their roster — it likely isn’t going to be worth his time when considering he should have more opportunities next summer. Because, if Philadelphia decides they don’t want to commit to a long-term deal with Brown this season, what’s stopping the Australian national team coach (he coached in the Australian league for years before coming to the Spurs) from waiting and applying for the job next summer … when the team’s prospects are better and he’s got a year of top experience under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio?
It’s an interesting spot for both sides: the Sixers don’t necessarily want to win this year and likely aren’t interested in committing too much to a head coach that they want to lose in his first season. But, if they really think a guy like Brown is their coach of the future, they’ll have to open their pocketbooks to make sure the risk of starting off really bad doesn’t scare him away.