PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Josh Harris is a billionaire and he if wants to shuttle between New York and the Philadelphia 76ers headquarters in New Jersey on a helicopter, the team owner can do it with ease. If Harris wants to pay $45 million for his luxury home, he can spend pocket change on a new pad, too. And he if really wanted to silence speculation that Brett Brown was coaching for his Sixers career during the playoffs, well, all Harris had to say was that he had his guy.
Harris instead settled for a milquetoast endorsement before the Brooklyn series, saying Brown was a “great coach” but offering no assurance he would return for another season if the Sixers failed to make a deep run in the playoffs.
“We think he’s the right leader to take us where we need to go in the playoffs,” Harris said. “I’m focused on the Brooklyn Nets.”
Harris let Brown twist through the Brooklyn and Toronto series, the sixth-year coach’s fate seemingly hinging on the outcome of four bounces of Kawhi Leonard’s jumper that finally plopped through the net at the Game 7 horn, ushering the Sixers into the offseason.
So, would Brown return?
It turned out Brown’s hot seat was actually as cool as the hockey ice under the hardwood at Wells Fargo Center.
“Brett’s job was never in jeopardy,” Harris said Tuesday in Camden, New Jersey.
The sourced reports, tweets , whispers, and bold headlines that Brown would not survive turned out to have all the accuracy of a Ben Simmons jumper.
And if Harris is to be taken at his word, Brown’s fate was never in doubt.
“Brett knew through the Toronto series that his job was not in jeopardy,” Harris said.
Brown, 178-314 (.362) in six seasons, said he knew from multiple conversations with Harris that his job was safe no matter if the season ended in the second round or a championship parade.
Harris and Brown both said it wouldn’t have been fair to respond to each report about the future when the focus was firmly on the postseason. But had Harris simply said what he said Tuesday a month ago, the reports would have all but vanished. Of course, maybe the Sixers didn’t feel it was necessary before the Brooklyn series to squelch unfounded rumors.
“Once the playoffs ended, it made sense to put it all to rest and move on,” Harris said.
Brown held exit interviews with the entire roster Monday before he headed to New York for dinner with the ownership group and general manager Elton Brand. The Sixers players then mostly had to defend Brown at the season-ending session with reporters, with All-Star center Joel Embiid using an expletive to answer a question on whether his coach was on the way out. Again, questions that wouldn’t have been wasted had a decision on Brown been announced. The Sixers used a late-night news dump to say Brown — who led the Sixers from the painful undertaking of the Process to consecutive 50-win seasons — would be retained for another season. Brown had agreed last year to a three-year contract extension through the 2021-22 season.
“We have everything that we need to move this program forward,” Brown said.
The Sixers are willing to give Brown everything he needs to keep the Sixers in the hunt for their first NBA championship since 1983 . The Sixers surrendered key assets in two trades this season for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris that signaled they were all-in for a championship. Butler and Harris are free agents who can command max contracts on the open market — money the Sixers have and are willing to spend.
“We’re committed to do what it takes to bring a championship to Philly, including spending into the luxury tax,” Harris said.
Embiid, Simmons, Butler and Harris are an All-Star caliber lineup that should easily keep the Sixers at the 50-win threshold. But Simmons and Embiid both have major holes in their game that could keep the Sixers from becoming a true championship contender. Embiid can’t stay healthy — and the Sixers failed to field a reliable backup when he’s out of the lineup — and Simmons can’t make a basic 15-footer (much less a 3-pointer).
Brand starts his first summer as GM after he was thrust into the position in the wake of the Bryan Colangelo Twitter fiasco .
“I look forward to being the GM for the first time in free agency to address certain needs like a backup center or depth or certain pieces that need to be in place,” Brand said. “Last year, I wasn’t afforded that opportunity. I had a voice in it, and I didn’t speak up loud enough I guess.”