It must be the beginnings of “Controversy Season” here in Philadelphia, huh?
One day after the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Los Angeles Rams with Nick Foles as the quarterback, the Philadelphia 76ers lost 123-96 to the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center. The 27-point loss marked the largest margin of defeat this season. Now, normally, a 27-point loss to a team coached by Gregg Popovich wouldn’t get me riled up (even if the Spurs have less talent than the Sixers).
The fact that I have to see things like this in my Twitter timeline gets me riled up:
The Body Language Doctor is on 24/7 watch with the 76ers right now.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) December 18, 2018
(Take it easy, Simmons. For all the spit you talk, the Celtics are only 18-11 with Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, AND Gordon Hawyard. Send the body language doctor to your own bench and settle down, alright.)
When getting up this morning to go to work, I had to listen to Eytan Shander of 97.5 The Fanatic say on “Good Morning, Philadelphia” that it may be time to think about a new head coach.
(Loud. Emphatic. Facepalm.)
Listen. I love Philadelphia. I chose to move back here after living in San Diego, California for ten years, but god bless, some of the takes in this town are … silly. (I’ll be nice, for now.) The answer to any Foles vs. Wentz debate until the end of time is “Wentz”. Period. Let’s get that out of the way first. Now, we go to the next issue.
Mr. Shander – and everyone else who thinks that way about Brett Brown – I get it. The Sixers haven’t looked like world beaters this season (particularly on the road). I grant you that, but the team is still 20-12 and fourth in the Eastern Conference. The 76ers are doing all of this without Zhaire Smith (their first round pick this year) or Markelle Fultz (their first round pick last year). They’re also doing this while integrating four new players into the rotation: Jimmy Butler, Mike Muscala, Landry Shamet, and Furkan Korkmaz (who has been getting increased minutes).
If you ask me, I think Brett Brown is doing a helluva job. Now, the defense has taken a step back. They’re 23rd in the league in Opp PPG (112.2) and 14th in DRtg (109.5). Can we peel some layers off that onion, though? Remember Lloyd Pierce – current head coach of the Atlanta Hawks? Pierce ran the Sixers defense. The Sixers replaced him with Monty Williams. I don’t know if Williams has simply added on to what the Sixers do already or if he’s installing his own personal defense, so I won’t speculate.
That is a change worth noting when discussing Brett Brown. When you lose a top assistant whom you’ve worked with for years, and replace him with someone he is unfamiliar with, there’s bound to be some differences.
To play devil’s advocate, let’s say that Brett Brown has overstayed his welcome and/or abilities as a head coach. Here’s what I say to that:
“Who are you going to get? What AVAILABLE basketball coaching mind is out there that will take the Sixers to the next level?”
Let’s look around the NBA to see who’s out there.
The way I see it, there are several current coaches that either might get fired at the end of the year or call it quits:
- Scott Brooks – The Wizards are really underachieving and have been for years.
- Erik Spoelstra – He’s kind of a long shot, but I’m not completely sure what the Heat are doing. It wouldn’t surprise me if he left Miami or Riley wants to go in another direction.
- Tom Thibodeau – I wasn’t a fan of the hire when it happened, and I was even less of a fan when the Timberwolves gave him total team control. (What the hell were you thinking, Minnesota?)
- Rick Carlisle – He’s another long shot because the Mavericks are actually doing better than most expected. Is Carlisle up for a complete rebuild, though?
- Gregg Popovich – This is the LONGEST of long shots. Honestly, I think Popovich retires after this season. He’s got rings. He’s in the Hall of Fame. What more does he have to prove?
Of the names on that list, Spoelstra is the only name that’s moderately interesting. The debate is always going to be there with him. “How good is Spoelstra without LeBron James?” The answer is pretty damn good, actually. Since LeBron left Miami for Cleveland, Spoelstra is 170-158. He’s done that with his best player being…Goran Dragić? I mean, he had Chris Bosh after LeBron James left, but Bosh was dealing with blood clotting issues that limited his playing time.
There isn’t a cell in my body that believes Scott Brooks is a good idea. My body would simply give up if Thibodeau was hired as the head coach, and Carlisle and Popovich are more likely to retire. If Spoelstra was available and the Sixers REALLY FEEL like they need an upgrade on the bench, that’d work.
How about other coaches (i.e. assistants or at home on their couches)?
Let’s start with the ones that are off the table. That list is Mark Jackson, the Van Gundy brothers, and any coach that has been fired before the All-Star Break. No to all of them. Guys like Phil Jackson or Jay Wright are also off the table because they should be happy where they are. (In Jackson’s case, it’s 2018, and the league has evolved quite a bit.) Jay, just stay at Villanova. No need to make the jump.
The San Antonio Spurs coaching tree (namely Becky Hammon and Ettore Messina) comes up EVERY off-season. Personally, I think it’s a crime she doesn’t have a head coaching gig yet. The Suns hired Igor Kokoškov, and it sounds like the Suns players are already tired of him. Honestly, the New Orleans Pelicans need to say they’ve had enough of Alvin Gentry at this point. Let’s see what Becky Hammon can do with Anthony Davis.
Hammon to the Sixers would be a catch-22. Does Hammon really want to make her first coaching gig a team that is close to an NBA Finals run? There’s already so much pressure being the first female coach. Why ratchet that up any further? Messina has won four EuroLeague titles, so that’s…something…I guess. (Shrug).
David Blatt’s name also comes up, but that’s a soft pass. I just don’t have enough to go on. I know how good Spoelstra was without LeBron James, but Blatt just disappeared off the face of the earth when he was fired after starting 30-11 in 2015-2016. (See why I didn’t want LeBron, you guys? If he doesn’t like you, he wants you gone.)
Jerry Stackhouse is an interesting name now because of the hiring of Elton Brand as GM. Brand was hired, and one of the things mentioned was how he “relates to the players”. If the Sixers want to continue that, maybe Stackhouse is the guy. Most of Stack’s experience is in the G League, where he has gone to consecutive G League finals, winning one of them.
That’s the thing when Shander or anyone else suggests that it might be time for a head coaching change. I agree that something needs to be done, but maybe it just comes down to the Sixers needing more dudes. Last night, the #FreeEmptyRosterSpot movement began.
Perhaps the Sixers just need more dudes. Listen, a 27-point loss is bad, but when it comes to the head coach, it’s not time to press the eject button prematurely – especially when there’s really nothing out there yet that’s better.
Always go with the devil you know versus the devil you don’t.