Larry Brown as Sixers Coach? Fine Idea
The question now is whether Brown can convince the team's ownership group Stefanski has been a failure and that he can do a better job, or whether Brown steps back and decides being closer to his Philly-based family is worth taking on coaching duties for one of the league's worst teams. The subplot to all of this is that Brown The Coach is exactly what Philadelphia needs.
Brown is a defensive mastermind. His Bobcats finished first in defensive efficiency this season. Every team Brown has taken over since the late 1990s -- with the exception of the Knicks -- has improved on defense in his first season. The Bobcats were among the league's worst defenses under Sam Vincent in 2007-08, but improved to No. 7 in Brown's first season despite personnel changes which were limited to a Boris Diaw and Raja Bell-for-Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley swap. The Bobcats picked up two top-notch defenders (Tyson Chandler and Stephen Jackson) on the way to the league's top defense this season.
In Brown's first stint with Philadelphia, the 76ers were in the top five in defense in every season but his first. Brown has always been known as a meddling coach, one who pushes for personnel moves behind the scenes. It tends to work for him -- he knows what type of players he needs to run his system. (Passionate defenders, wings who'd rather drive than shoot and smart point guards who don't make careless mistakes.) The Bobcats were full of Larry Brown players, with Jackson, Gerald Wallace and Raymond Felton sticking out.
But the 76ers have the make-up for success under Brown, too. Andre Iguodala is among the league's best perimeter defenders -- strong, agile, athletic. Samuel Dalembert is a consistently great defensive rebounder, and a serious shotblocker. Thaddeus Young has all the tools, and Jrue Holiday, the 19-year-old point guard, has a great head for the game. Marreese Speights will not among Brown's favorites, in all likelihood, and one could see a despairing Elton Brand and Brown coming to loggerheads over minutes and role. But the core of the team is, or should be, Iguodala, Young and Holiday. (I can't decide whether Brown would love Lou Williams -- the coach adores Mike Bibby and Chauncey Billups -- or would fine him for every three-pointer attempted.)
Eddie Jordan was not the right coach for the 76ers, we can all admit that. He's an offensive-minded fellow who was intent on installing his favored system (the Princeton offense), no matter how poorly the parts fit. This team needs to be modeled after Brown's Bobcats -- defense first, defense second, attack the rim on offense. Who better to lead the redesign than Brown?
But if Brown holds out for that GM job, Sixers management needs to decide whether Stefanski deserves a shot to clean up this mess. The results speak for themselves, though one could argue Brand's subsequent injury issues were unforseeable. Stefanski's biggest mistakes seem to have been botching the 2009 coaching search (by leaving successful interim Tony DiLeo hanging by a thread while purusing Stefanski's old friend Jordan) and letting Andre Miller leave. Are those mistakes big enough to push him out of his job after just two years?
As for Brown, good on him for resurrecting his reputation after that catastrophic year with the Knicks. Things got so bad some teams wouldn't interview Brown because of his baggage. As he flees Charlotte in the middle of his contract, some of that worry seems justified. But he can still coach, and he's back to being an actual target.