Sam Hinkie received hoards of criticism for prolonging his head coaching search into August last summer. The Sixers GM's extensive process was far more than the fruitless method many pundits claimed it to be. He used the opportunity to pick the brains of the youngest and brightest minds across the NBA, squeezing every ounce of information he could from each interview.
Hinkie interviewed former Memphis Grizzlies assistant coach of player development Lloyd Pierce during that time frame and, lo and behold, Brett Brown named Pierce to his staff once Brown got the Sixers' head job.
Pierce has guided the Sixers' Orlando Pro Summer League squad. He's done so quite well — the Sixers are 3-1 and will play Memphis for the championship in the 2014 OPSL.
Pierce has valued his experience leading an NBA organization on the court for two weeks, dating back to the team's late-June training camp at PCOM.
"It's great. Obviously, we're sticking to everything that we do, offensively and defensively," Pierce said. "It's a little different when you're in the head spot, but our whole staff has been fine. Everybody gets to feel a little bit more empowered in different areas and myself as well — just learning on the job and coming back with a little more knowledge or maybe a tick here, where I can help Brett make a move forward."
Pierce is relatively young for a coach in his position. He helped Steve Nash guide Santa Clara to the NCAA Tournament in 1996. His youthfulness has allowed Pierce to easily relate with his players.
"He's a cool dude, everybody respects him, he comes in and everybody listens to him. We've learned fast and I think we've gelled quickly because of him," Hollis Thompson said. "It's been a lot of fun. Coach Pierce is a lot fun to play with. He just makes guys feel comfortable."
Casper Ware has thrived under Pierce this week. The point guard credits Pierce for bringing together a team of strangers so quickly.
"He's doing a good job, just to take a group of players you haven't had for over two weeks and have us come together," Ware said. "I think we're playing well as a team, one of the best here."
Pierce has seen the Sixers play with the style and pace Brett Brown has promised Sixers fans they will see in the Wells Fargo Center in the very near future. The defense has been swarming, keyed by Ware on the perimeter and Nerlens Noel protecting the rim.
They've been really fun in transition and genuinely look like the fastest, most athletic team in Orlando. It's been a pretty promising week for a club that is once again expected to lose a lot of games next regular season.
Hopefully Sixers assistant coach Chad Iske, tasked with head coaching duties out in Las Vegas, can continue the Sixers positive momentum in Summer League.
"[Lloyd's] great. He's definitely been a great head coach this summer," Noel said. "I'm looking forward to working with Chad in Vegas, too."