Even before Game 7 of the Raptors-Sixers series unfolded the way it did, there were rumors head coach Brett Brown was on the hot seat if the Sixers didn’t advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Marc Stein reported on Sunday ahead of the series-deciding game Brown had “little chance” of keeping his job if the Sixers didn’t come away with a win. It is now Monday, and the Sixers lost in heartbreaking fashion, watching a Kawhi Leonard buzzer-beater bounce every which way around the rim and finally dropping in to end their season.
In their last media session of the season, the Sixers all stood behind Brown. Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris all sung his praises on their way out. They heard the noise, same as we all did, and are doing their part to help out their coach. In the case of Butler and Harris (and, apparently, even Simmons), there’s a chance they won’t play for Philly again. They said what they said because they believe Brown doesn’t deserve the boot, and I’m in the same boat. The Sixers owe Brown at least another year to try to take this team as far as it will go. They certainly shouldn’t be canning him based on the result of one game, as the reports seem to indicate, and definitely not on a game that ended like Game 7 did.
Brown is not the perfect coach. He’s no Steve Kerr, or Gregg Popovich, or Rick Carlisle. He’s slow to adjust in playoff series, which has killed the team in the past. It’s not entirely Simmons’ fault that he’s a non-factor in the playoffs when his coach can’t seem to figure out how to use a 6’10” freaj athlete with better vision than all but few in this league. But, much like his young players he’s stood behind for the last few years, he’s still growing. The Raptors series showed what Brown could be. His lack of adjustments killed them early on, but he figured it out near the end and made it a series after Toronto seemed to have killed their spirits by Game 4.
It’s not like Brown had a cakewalk of a year, either. The front office brought in Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris at early points in the season, making it difficult to assimilate them on the fly as the team tried to win games. Yes, having your team acquire two All-Stars and not having enough time to adjust is a problem most teams would like to have. It doesn’t change the fact that their failure to reach the Eastern Conference Finals doesn’t entirely fall on Brown alone.
That comes to the crux of the argument: is Brown part of the solution or part of the problem in regards to advancing further in the playoffs? Considering last year was everyone’s first time around, making it to the second round is pretty solid. This year’s loss was devastating, but again, how much falls on Brown? The Raptors are significantly better than last year’s Celtics, and it still took a fortuitous bounce and a sick Embiid for them to squeak past. Matters were not helped by Harris never made more than two threes in a game and topped out at 16 points.
Would the Sixers have advanced past the Raptors if they had a better coach? Perhaps. In a Game 7 that came down to a final shot, just about anything could’ve gone differently and Philly would be preparing for Milwaukee instead of defending their head coach to the media. Brown may not be the guy to elevate this team to the heights it can reach with Simmons and Embiid as their cornerstones. But these players would die for their coach, and he brought this team back from the abyss that was The Process unscathed. He deserves a final chance to see it through until the end.