Brett Brown walked into the 76ers locker room at halftime of Game 2 with Philadelphia up a point over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night.
Brown reportedly yelled at the team. He cursed. He did everything but turn over a buffet table.
The Sixers got the message. They scored 51 points in the third quarter, won the game 145-123 and evened up the series at 1-1. Game 3 is in Brooklyn on Thursday night.
“It was legitimate frustration and anger,” Sixers guard JJ Redick told reporters after practice Wednesday at the team’s Camden training facility. “Anybody can come in and scream and act like they’re mad. But Brett is a very authentic guy.”
Brown’s halftime actions say a lot about his relationship with his team. Coaches can only yell at players after they’ve loved them and connected with them.
There is simply too much drama around Brown right now. Some of that drama is the Sixers’ fault.
Google “dreaded vote of confidence.” I bet you will probably find a video of Sixers co-owner Josh Harris and general manager Elton Brand sitting together and speaking to the media before Saturday’s Game 1.
Harris expressed confidence in Brown, but when asked if Brown would coach the team next season, Harris did not say yes.
“He’s our coach going into the playoffs,” Harris said. “We’re supportive of Brett. We think he’s the right leader to take us where we need to go in the playoffs. I’m focused on the Brooklyn Nets, and he’s focused on the Brooklyn Nets.”
What Harris didn’t say invites nightly speculation on Brown’s status.
The coach has become a polarizing figure among Sixers fans.
To some, he can do no right. Every play out of timeout is scrutinized and criticized.
To some, he can do no wrong.
Does Brown have his strategy shortcomings? Sure. During his tenure, the Sixers have a history of shaky fourth-quarter possessions.
But all NBA coaches can be second-guessed. Nets coach Kenny Atkinson is considered an up-and-coming star. But in Game 2, he never called a timeout when the Sixers started the third quarter with a 21-2 run. What was he waiting for?
Coaching is about more than just strategy. It’s about managing people.
If the Sixers wanted to quit on Brown, they easily could, and so far that hasn’t occurred.
Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are young superstars. If one of them mutinied, Brown wouldn’t last the day.
Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and Redick are all free agents. They could all easily bag the playoffs and move on to their next stop.
Monday’s 51-23 third quarter shows that’s not happening.
Every great coach has great players. But not all coaches win with great players.
It’s too soon to determine if Brown is a great coach.
He is in his sixth season with the Sixers. The first four don’t count because the team’s goal was to lose as much as possible.
Brown has survived Sam Hinkie, Bryan Colangelo, Mrs. Colangelo’s burner twitter account, Jahlil Okafor, Markelle Fultz, countless injuries and multiple in-season trades.
Somehow the Sixers have won 50 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1985-86.
Brown is not a Supreme Court Justice. He’s not Sixers coach for life.
It’s more than fair to say that after a full training camp, 2019-20 is a make or break season for him.
But before Game 1, Harris should have ended the current speculation and committed to bringing Brown back next season.
The coach has earned that.
Michael McGarry’s Must Win column appears Fridays in The Press.