After an extremely disappointing 2019-20 season, the Philadelphia 76ers decided to part ways with head coach Brett Brown. Over the course of his seven seasons in Philadelphia, Brown took the team from the basement to contention, but ultimately he couldn’t get them over the top. Now the organization is in the midst of a search for a new head coach, led by general manager Elton Brand.
Brand has already met with several candidates, and is expected to interview several more — including former Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni, Clippers assistant Ty Lue, and former Thunder head coach Billy Donovan — in the coming days, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Brand is also looking to bolster Philadelphia’s front office. From Charania:
76ers general manager Elton Brand has met with several top candidates for the franchise’s head coach opening and the team expects to bring a short list of candidates to the Philadelphia area within 10 days for the next round of interviews, sources said. Former Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, ex-Thunder coach Billy Donovan and Clippers assistant Ty Lue are expected to be part of the next round of interviews and are strongly vying for and interested in the position, according to sources.
Philadelphia remains intent on building and adding talent under Brand to further strengthen the front office. Brand is well respected by his peers across the NBA, agents and basketball industry executives. In addition to leading the head coaching search, Brand is having conversations with multiple NBA front-office personnel to bolster his staff. For the 76ers, Brand continues to be the leader of basketball operations.
A previous report from Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer suggested that the job was D’Antoni’s to lose. D’Antoni coached the Rockets for four seasons, but he was ultimately unable to lead the team to the NBA Finals, and the two sides parted ways after the Rockets were eliminated in the second round by the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this month. Philadelphia’s front office is familiar with D’Antoni, who served as an assistant under Brown during the 2015-16 season before joining the Rockets. There were rumblings that Philadelphia’s front office was interested in D’Antoni as a head coach while he was serving as an assistant with the team, but that interest obviously never materialized at the time. Things could be different this time around.
However, given the current construction of the Sixers roster, it’s fair to wonder if D’Antoni is the correct coach to lead the team. D’Antoni is well known for running a fast-paced offense that puts an emphasis on transition play and the 3-point shot. The Rockets didn’t even employ a traditional center for a bulk of the season and playoffs in an effort to maximize their ability to run and space the floor. This style sounds like it would be an ideal fit for All-Star forward Ben Simmons, who would assuredly put up crazy numbers in a D’Antoni-style offense. But, it doesn’t seem like such a style would mesh well with Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid, one of the league’s premier post players.
Lue could potentially be a solid fit for Philadelphia. While coaching the Cavs through three consecutive deep postseason runs from 2016 to 2018, Lue demonstrated an ability to make changes — both in terms of personnel and game plan — on the fly. This was an area that Brown didn’t always excel at during his seven seasons with the Sixers. Lue is also unafraid to call out his best players, as he did with LeBron during the 2016 Finals. As a coach, if you’re willing to call out James, you’d be comfortable calling out anyone. For a team that has lacked accountability, this could be a very important trait for a head coach to have. In addition to winning a ring as a head coach, Lue also won two titles during his playing days with the Lakers, so he has learned what it takes to win at the highest level, both as a player and a coach. This experience is obviously very intriguing to the Sixers.
The Sixers are clearly casting a wide net when it comes to their search, and understandably so, as the magnitude of the decision can’t be overstated. Based on the candidates that we know of, it seems like the team is looking for a veteran coach with postseason experience, as opposed to an assistant or someone from the college ranks. Whoever is selected will be tasked with setting the tone for a whole new era of Sixers basketball, and leading the team somewhere it hasn’t been since 2001: the NBA Finals.