When Brett Brown was hired by Sam Hinkie in August of 2013, it was with the knowledge that the Philadelphia 76ers were in the beginnings of a rebuild that could take years. It was why Brown insisted on the 4-year deal he eventually got from the team. He knew there was going to be a lot of losing, teaching, and yet more losing before the Sixers became contenders in the Eastern Conference.
And so far, things have gone according to the plan laid out by Hinkie. The Sixers have lost the majority of their games, gotten a No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft for their efforts that they turned into Joel Embiid and are well on their way to doing so again. Hinkie has used the Sixers roster like a revolving door, trading players whenever a deal comes along that he thinks might help improve the Sixers in the long-term.
Brandon Davies. Thaddeus Young. Michael Carter-Williams. K.J. McDaniels. The list goes on and on and on.
And it’s a fair assumption to say that Brett Brown had zero say in any of those decisions.
After the Carter-Williams trade, it became abundantly clear who is calling the shots if there was ever any doubt before. This is Sam Hinkie’s team and he will do whatever he feels needs to be done to make the Sixers better, regardless of what anyone else thinks, whether that be his coach, the fans or the media. The Wednesday after the trade, MCW spoke out and pretty much said so after a shootaround with the Milwaukee Bucks, as reported by CSN Philly.com’s Dei Lynam
“The ultimate thing it comes down to: Coach Brown coaches and Sam does the moves. That is what it comes down to, that is the agreement, and that is all I know. I think if it came down to Coach Brown, I don’t think I would have been moved, to be honest.
I thought I was pretty proven. I thought what I did in Philly were proven facts of success. My rookie year, I am not one to talk about myself, but winning Rookie of the Year, averaging 16.7 (points) and six (assists) — those are proven things. That is why I thought I was a cornerstone of this team. For it to go the other way, I still don’t know why.”
When asked about MCW’s comments, Brown was very diplomatic and said all the right things, saying
“I say that Sam Hinkie has to do his job. I came to the Philadelphia 76ers in large part because of Sam. I had a gut feel that his study is meticulous and so only time will tell with all this. I will say I had a personal attachment and fondness for [Carter-Williams] and the excitement I will have watching him grow in this league, and he will grow.”
So how long will it go on like this? Because at some point, the guy who is coaching the team has to make the decisions about which players stay and which can be sent packing, not the GM. Can you imagine if Gregg Popovich had to deal with this? Or Phil Jackson when he was coaching? Even Doug Collins got more respect from the Sixers front office than Brown is currently getting.
Over the last two seasons Brown has more than proven he can coach while also teaching and motivating his players. The fact he has gotten 13 wins from a squad that has had as much turnover as the 2014-15 Sixers is, quite frankly, amazing. And to know that there is a good possibility that, come the 2016 trade deadline it could happen again if a team dangles a first-round pick under Hinkie’s nose has to be maddening.
Brown has already expressed his dismay with having to get new players up to speed so often, telling Dei Lynam shortly after the trade deadline
“We have to concentrate on what we stand for, which is defense and we have to try and grow some level of comfort with our offense. I feel very naked on both sides of the ball right now. I don’t feel as organized as we were two weeks ago, which is fair enough.”
And that doesn’t even take into consideration free agency. The Sixers will need to go after free agents at some point; all their problems can’t be cured via the NBA Draft. Who will make that final decision if a player is worth the money and will fit into Brown’s system? Hinkie? All you need to do is look at some of the veteran players Hinkie has brought in to see how well that works.
Brown currently has two years left on his contract with the Sixers and he has more than proven he deserves a chance to coach the Sixers beyond that, so he will hopefully be given the option to stay. But when the time comes to decide his fate with the franchise, you can be sure that there will be some discussion about control and who ultimately makes decisions about players being traded and who has value to the team.
Because if you need analytics or more options in the draft, Sam Hinkie is your guy. But if you are trying to put a winning team together and create some chemistry and a positive culture, Brett Brown should be making those decisions, hands down.