By J.P. Pelosi
More than a few Sixers fans are likely to be scratching their heads this week and asking, who the heck is Brett Brown?
The internet has surely relayed to them by now that Brown joined the San Antonio Spurs in 2002 as a director of player development. He became an assistant, worked some fast magic with the likes of Tony Parker and Bruce Bowen, and the rest is history.
In Australia, where Brown is regarded among the country's all time great coaches, his bio has been more widely read.
Brown spent 14 years coaching in the National Basketball League (NBL) Down Under, nine as a head man, and several as one the three best in the sport.
His expertise and good work propelled him to the NBA.
The lasting impression many NBL fans have of Brown however, is as a young and brash thirty-something with a mop of curly hair and an Andrew McCarthy grin, joyfully clutching at the '94 championship trophy in a drenched blue shirt. It was unfettered passion from a man that really seemed to care. His North Melbourne Giants, who were mediocre the year before, undoubtedly appreciated that energy too.
Brown was named the NBL's Coach of the Year the same season.
He is well recognized as a defensive tutor, which will surely help Philadelphia, a team that ranked 20th in team defense last season, according to NBA.com. But I also remember Brown's offenses, bouyed by wonderful passing to the interior, and deft shooting. They were quite underrated by contrast to the Brown defenses.
The Giants whipped the ball around the floor so freely that finding the open man seemed ineveitable. Of course, they also had one the NBL's best ever players, Darryl McDonald, at the helm.
The man known as D-Mac was recruited by Brown from the States ahead of that championship year, a move that was not only a masterstroke for the club, but the league. A special talent, even at a time when the league was loaded with them, D-Mac was a regular all-star and NBL first teamer.
To get a sense of Brown's approach, I asked McDonald this week how the coach impacted his career.
"From a basketball standpoint, he was a player's coach," says McDonald. "He let me play my game and never tried to change anything. First year was great for the team as we won the championship. It was great for me as I was one point short of winning MVP of the league. (He's) probably the reason I played 15 seasons here."
As for his graduation to NBA head coach, D-Mac knows the diligent Brown will succeed.
"He will go very well," says McDonald. "It wont take him long to turn it (the Sixers) around. He's been an assistant coach under one of the best basketball minds in the NBA."
He adds that the three championships with the Spurs and his development of players such as Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli and Tim Duncan shouldn't go unnoticed.
"He has an acute eye for talent," says McDonald. "His defensive schemes are very good. I go back to my first year where we won the championship playing zone for the whole season; it was good, as it worked well for us and the team we had."
It's true Brown has a mind for schemes and sound resume to support it, one that's headlined by his NBL and NBA titles, and internationals with the Aussie Boomers. But even more than this, I think, he's always come across as a genuine, salt of the earth good guy - someone the players like and fans can relate to. He's well-rounded and ready.
So if you're a Philly fan, rest assured that Brown has learned from the game's best. His father, Bob, is a New England Basketball Hall of Famer; he also assisted Australia's most legendary coach, Lindsay Gaze (yes, Andrew's dad), in Melbourne; and finally, as it's been said, six years next to Coach Popovich would prepare any man for one of America's most expectant sporting towns.