Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Clearly, Einstein didn’t try to coach the Philadelphia 76ers the last few years or he probably would have reworked that definition.
Poor Brett Brown. The man brought in to steward the most ambitious rebuild ever attempted at the professional level knew to an extent what he was getting into when he left his assistant coaching gig in San Antonio. But no amount of mental gymnastics could have possibly prepared a person for the long, interminable stretches of losing that have transpired since he accepted the role.
In his first season, the Sixers tied the record for the worst losing streak in NBA history, dropping 26 straight games from January 31, 2014, to March 29, 2014. The next season, the team started the season on a 17-game skid and are now the first NBA team ever to start 0-11 in back-to-back seasons. After ending last year on a 10-game losing streak, the team has now lost 21 straight regular season games. The longest losing streak that spanned two seasons was 24 (by the Cleveland Cavaliers across the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons). Brett Brown hasn’t coached a team to a regular season win in close to 8 months.
Brett Brown loves to teach. But I can’t imagine his level of frustration when in his third season, he still has young guys making a great play one second, and an absolutely bone-headed one the next.The Sixers in a Vine.
The Sixers in a Vine. https://t.co/BxKW1vNb6D
— HoopsHype (@hoopshype) November 17, 2015
He probably feels like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, trying everything he knows to escape but always waking up in the same bed in Punxsutawney.
Any reasonable person would consider this job career suicide. Brett Brown currently has the second-worst winning percentage in NBA history among coaches with at least 100 games under his belt. He would need six straight 50-win seasons to get back to .500. If Brown were to look for another head-coaching job sometime down the line, it would take an awfully self-assured management group to sell “one of the worst” coaches in NBA history to the fan base.
Brown is currently in the third year of a four-year contract. The Sixers coach had this to say when asked about his contract situation back in training camp:
“My answer truly is that I signed a 4-year contract and my intention is to see it through.”
Remarkably, I believe him. Through it all, Brown has remained remarkably upbeat and candid in all his in-game and post-game interviews. Even for those of us who watch every 76ers game and agonize over the losses, we still get to joke about the situation with our friends and over social media and go back to our lives. For Brett Brown, the losing is his life.
Instead of getting to step away, he has to rewatch the tape of every defeat and try to somehow figure out a way to bring it to an end. It’s more than I think I could take, and I’m not alone in that line of thinking. When the Sixers and Spurs met over the weekend, Brown’s former mentor Gregg Popovich had this to say:
“I’d last about a month. And he, honest to God, loves coaching that team.”
Brown would have to love it to make it this far into the heart of rebuilding darkness. For his sake, I hope he gets to experience at least a small amount of the light at the end of the tunnel.