Joel Embiid on if Brett Brown should return as 76ers coach: ‘I’m not the GM, I don’t make the decisions’

After seven seasons and a whole lot of turmoil, the Philadelphia 76ers appear poised to make a major change. After being swept in the first round of the 2020 NBA postseason by the rival Boston Celtics, the Sixers are expected to part ways with head coach Brett Brown in the near future, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Brown joined the Sixers in 2013, and endured four years of organizational roster restructuring during before he led the team to three consecutive postseason appearances. The 2019-20 iteration of the team was plagued with consistent injury issues and a roster that needed to be better balanced, though, and Brown will ultimately be the fall guy for an underwhelming team that failed to live up to any and all expectations this season. 

While Philadelphia’s front office should shoulder a large amount of the blame for the team’s struggles this season, Brown isn’t blameless, and it seems as though some of his players are ready for — or at least resigned to — a change. After the Sixers were eliminated by the Boston Celtics on Sunday, All-Star center Joel Embiid stopped short of endorsing Brown as the right guy for the job moving forward. Instead, he said that he trusts the organization to make the right decisions. 

“I’m not the [general manager]; I don’t make the decisions,” Embiid said via a Zoom press conference. “All I know is that we’ve got a great organization, a bunch of great people outside of basketball. I never judge people based on basketball; I judge them based on how great of a people and how bad [of] people they are. And I think in the organization, we’ve got amazing people — from the management, owners, management, staff, coaching staff, to training staff. We’ve got a bunch of great people.”  

While Embiid opted not to offer much input either way, guard Josh Richardson went in a different direction. He said in his lone year in Philly, the 76ers under Brown lacked accountability — criticism similar to what former 76ers star forward Jimmy Butler said about Brown. 

“He’s a good guy. He’s a good man. He means well,” Richardson said of Brown on Sunday. “I just think, going forward, he’s gotta have some more accountability. I don’t think there was much accountability this season, and I think that was part of our problem … It’s got to start from scratch, it isn’t going to be easy. People aren’t going to be comfortable, but that’s what championship teams do. Guys not doing their job on or off the court, there’s got to be some sort of, not consequence, but you got to be able to talk to each other and listen, actually hear. It’s a hard lesson to learn for some people, but in order for us to make this playoff run that we all want, it’s got to start.”

Since joining the Sixers in 2013, Brown has been an eternal optimist, but on Sunday even he knew that he didn’t have much to be optimistic about when it comes to his future in Philadelphia. Instead of pointing to the team’s seemingly endless string of injury issues or pointing the finger at the front office for building a roster ill-suited to contend in today’s NBA, Brown looked inward and admitted that he didn’t do as good of a job as he could have in maximizing the talent on the team. 

“You have to take the team that you have and maximize it and get the most out of it, and I did not do that,” Brown said. “We came in and we talked about smash mouth, and bully ball, we’re built for the playoffs, we’re big. Really all those kinds of phrases equaled, man. We have a huge team. We have a big team.

“And the thing that I found the most challenging as the season played out, space became an enormous issue. And effectively you had a mismatch every possession down the court. And the fact is, that’s Joel’s world. That’s Joel’s domain. From a spatial issue, from a team sort of design, that was an area we needed to get done, and I don’t believe I did that great of a job coaching that.”

Seven years in one place in the NBA is a very long time, and sometimes a change of scenery, or a new voice is needed. That seems to be where the Sixers are at at this point in time. Brown is the only coach Embiid and Ben Simmons have ever had on the professional level, so it makes sense that the organization would want to bring in a new voice on the sideline before looking to trade either one of their young All-Stars. If the Sixers want to put themselves in better position to contend moving forward, though, more than just a coaching change is needed. The roster will need a major shake-up too, as it is extremely short on shooting and playmaking as currently constructed. Without such changes, a new head coach will run into a lot of the exact same issues that Brown did. 

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