Coaching Vacancy

Sunday, the Philadelphia 76ers season ended in a first-round loss to Boston, and the future was suddenly murky. The focus now moves toward assessing options moving forward. The search to replace Brett Brown as head coach commenced Monday. This change is probably needed mostly because the locker room needs a new voice. Frustratingly, the team has not found chemistry. But roster construction this season was based on the premise that being bigger and more physical in a league that is progressively going smaller and quicker would pay dividends in the postseason.

News flash: It didn’t.

“He [Brown] got his team through a lot of adversity and challenges, and he’s helped develop some of the game’s youngest and brightest talented players. He’ll be missed for sure. I respect him deeply on a personal level and a professional level. I wish him well and thank him for everything he’s done for me.” Said Brand Tuesday.

“He did many positive things during his time here, developing young talent and helping position our team for three straight postseason appearances” Elton Brand on Brett Brown

Brett Brown 

Brett Brown is a charismatically loquacious coach who spoke volumes without making an impactful point to his players. Brown’s biggest strength for a young chaotic team might have been his greatest weakness for a team trying to settle into chemistry. No one forced the team to galvanize into an identity they could count on in the crucible of the playoffs. The Boston Celtics were able to pressure the fractures that existed on the team, and the team did not communicate enough to adjust on the floor. 

So now that the 76ers have a coaching vacancy, what are their options? Ideally, someone with the right mix of skillsets, but let’s look at some archetypes they should consider. 

“He’s a good guy, a good man, he means well, I just think going forward we need more accountability, I don’t think there was much accountability this season and that was part of our problem” Josh Richardson after the season-ending loss to Boston. 

Change the Voice

When asked about the specific qualities he believes the next head coach will need, Brand said, “We’re gonna figure out their temperament, you know how they plan to use Joel and Ben, their philosophies.” There seemed to be no intention on the part of Brand to entertain breaking up the duo of Embiid and Simmons. Brand also affirmed that different styles of coaching have won championships, so he would not necessarily go to the heavy-handed coach. “The right coach for this group is what I’m going to look for.” He said. 

Let’s look at different coaching styles and how they can impact a team. There is no single leadership style that is right for every organization, and Bran will need to pick someone who has the right balance of philosophy and temperament. 

Democratic Coaching

According to Success Factory

This method gives the team freedom and accountability, with the coach stepping in only when needed to keep the process going. Individuals will feel self-empowered and in control, and are encouraged to give input.

The result? Improved decision-making and communication and greater cooperation.

It can take a little longer than other approaches to see the results, but when it comes to performance coaching styles, it can be advantageous, as the onus is on the team to work together and explore solutions as a whole.

Authoritarian coaching

The notion of a disciplinarian in the modern NBA is somewhat anachronistic. An authoritarian coach could potentially force the players themselves to rally and figure things out themselves. With an authoritarian figure, the hope would be that players would come together versus running to the coach with every little conflict or complaint. When you are afraid of how an authoritarian figure might resolve a dispute, you tend to fix things yourselves. 

“We’re not going to be comfortable, but that’s, that’s what championship teams do. Guys not doing a job on or off the court, it’s got to be some consequence, but somebody’s got to, we got to be able to talk to each other and listen. And not listen to say something back, but actually hear it.” Josh Richardson on team communication.

The downside to this type of coach is you turn unhappy players into disgruntled players who demand trades. 

Tactical Coaching

The biggest critique on Brown was his in-game adjustments. In 5 playoffs series, the 76ers have adjusted relatively well between games. During games, however, Brown has struggled. The sixers tended to stick with the gameplan and analytics and let the numbers play out over large sample size. The Playoffs, and close games, however, rely on feel and micro-adjustments. With a broad lens, Brown’s approach was correct, but in the last 4 minutes of a game, or an NBA playoff, some of these “hills we will die on” led to certain death. 

The tactician type coach is one who will prepare the team for their opponent and quickly make adjustments to get wins. There is only so much a tactician can do with a team that is limited in their play styles. The roster in 2020 is built for methodical play, not for versatility. A lack of elite perimeter players makes the job of a tactician much more difficult. The 76ers roster will need some changes before they can truly unlock their potential. 

Fans, media, and people around the league have noted the general unwillingness or inability of the 76ers to adjust mid-game to what an opponent was taking away. A tactician type coach will look to instill winning habits each possession, each quarter, and each game. The benefits of this are apparent. A tactician must be capable of making quick assessments in-game, know when to make a change, and consistently pull the correct levers. Tyron Lue carries a reputation for strong decisive in game adjustments. 

Motivational Coaching

Getting players who want to play for a coach is crucial. This area is where Brett Brown excelled. “I think that on the court, we did a better job of listening. I think that’s our next step to have some conflict on the bench, as you saw, you know, one of our first games I think I’ll go forth. And I think we got to be comfortable in uncomfortable times and times of conflict and times where, if I’m not doing my job or somebody to cuss me out. But that’s not what I grew up in is what I came from. So, I’ve seen good teams, and I know that that conflict and accountability is a big part of that,” Said Richardson. 

A motivation oriented coach will inspire players to dig down in the small moments to work on the little things they need to improve and to lock in and focus on winning. A motivating head coach can have a positive effect on breeding an excitement for everyone to go to work every day looking forward to the opportunity to improve. 

A motivator must-have soft skills, relate to players on an individual level, and get to know what they need to hear and when. Versatility is vital for a motivating coach to bring an air of fairness while giving tough love to some and wearing kid gloves to others. 

Organizational Factors

Organizational changes tend to follow the personalities of leadership. Commonly, one of the failings of management tends to be hiring people who think and act like the executives themselves. 76ers ownership has a collaborative mindset. Making decisions in a collaborative group appears to be the general philosophy. Brand said Tuesday, “Frankly, we feel that the collaboration approach didn’t work too well. So I will be leading this search. I’ll make the recommendation,” Said Brand. 

The collaborative approach only has value when the group has mutual respect but diverse viewpoints. Ultimately, though, someone has to have the final say. Elton Brand says that will be him moving forward. If so, then the next head coach will likely be someone who exhibits the traits and capabilities that Brand believes a coach needs. Twice Tuesday, Brand said that Analytics is a strength, but more basketball minds are needed. 

Likely, the rest of the front office top under and around Brand go. Consequently, some aspects of the strategy will wait until those positions are filled. Executives often surround themselves with people they trust, and those people will have the traits that GM believes to be needed. So this could be a quick process or something that takes months. Complicating this search is the uncertainty surrounding the start of the next season.

Players League

Likely, the roster itself will help dictate that decision. Does Al Horford remain? Does Tobias Harris get moved? The next Head Coach will need to have credibility amongst the star players. Credibility breeds trust, success reinforces belief. And any decision on coaching replacements would be the assistants a new coach would attract. Who is plugged into the up and coming talent in coaching circles and could build a staff appropriate to the roster? These are the types of questions 76ers leadership must answer. Elton Brand had the power to put his stamp on the organization. 

Ty Lue leads the names being circulated which indicates the team wants a pedigree and a tactician. This would be a stark departure from the player development style for which Brown was known. 

76ers Fire Brett Brown, More Changes Likely