June 11, 2018
Truth be told, Brett Brown isn't used to this level of responsibility in the month of June. The coach openly admits that a lot of his early summers in Philadelphia have been catching up on more leisurely affairs, like going fishing or watching his son Sam play basketball.
Helming an organization is not exactly familiar territory for the head coach. But that's exactly what he's tasked with doing in the absence of Bryan Colangelo, now working his way down the old dusty trail following an insane burner account scandal.
Two seasons removed from 10 wins, Brown is now high atop the ladder for a team with a realistic shot at signing LeBron James this summer.
"It has changed dramatically for me," Brown said of the decisionmaking and day-to-day process he is going through. "I do love it, I feel like I can control my own destiny in a different way...just trying to provide leadership and structure and sort of a detailed plan of what matters most, and what's the order that we're going to achieve it? [It] happens regularly, it happens three, four, five hours every day since Bryan's situation was determined."
In some respects, conducting a draft workout as Brown and the team did on Monday morning is getting back to what he knows best. While it was trainers and assistants running prospects through an assortment of drills during the media availability portion, there was Brown on the sideline, walking up and down and taking it all in. There he was at the conclusion of the workout, assembling his six potential players, giving them a lengthy speech about the prospect of joining the organization — you can bet the phrase "career-best fitness" was involved.
One of the saving graces for Brown is that his Sixers have never had more certainty heading into an offseason when it comes to their team makeup. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are their tentpole players, each with understood strengths and weaknesses, and they have been through a playoff environment that spelled out what the program needs quite clearly.
Three-and-D players were at the forefront of Brown's mind, but he admitted the team's needs go "way deeper than that" following Monday's workout. As the guy who needs to potentially work with these young men each and every day, Brown believes what he can learn away from the workout is just as important to the process. Even if it includes notes on some very specific physical features, apparently.
"I'll get some of these guys in my office, I like talking to them, you can look at their hands and feet a little bit closer, and look at just the size of hands as an example. How they carry themselves, how they interact with a teammate, how they respond to testing...there's really nothing like, I think, that one-on-one environment for me."
How much you can actually learn from a draft workout otherwise is up for debate. The portion we saw Monday featured plenty of tired legs, with the three-man group of Miami's Lonnie Walker, Michigan State's Miles Bridges, and SMU's Shake Milton all settling for a lot of jumpers in one-on-one drills. It looked very much like a group of guys at the end of a long pickup run, infrequently summoning the strength to hit the turbo button and drive to the basket.
If Brown is worried about the gravity of the decisions he will help make over the next few weeks, he isn't showing it. That's in spite of the fact that he's aware of huge needs for his franchise, in forms that are both immediate and concerned with years down the line.
For anyone who thinks a panic signing or trade could be the ultimate product of a head coach running basketball operations, even temporarily, Brown said something that should put your mind at ease.
"I do [believe we need a top free agent], and I've said that," Brown admitted. "But, if we’re not successful, if we’re not able this year to achieve that, it’s not going to be like we’re going to lose our minds and pivot out and do something that’s reckless, we’re not going to do that...I don’t believe that we have the bandwidth to do anything reckless. We don’t want to, but I think the security blanket around the people we have around me, certainly, will ensure that in a far greater way."
And so onward we move into the franchise's most pivotal offseason in decades, as a head coach strives to make the best out of an imperfect situation. Philadelphia's focus appears to be on the big picture, which is the biggest point of concern when handing a coach more power within an organization.
If the key to this offseason is simply staying the course and delivering on years worth of promise and buildup, it appears the Sixers might just weather this storm.
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