Jamaicans couldn’t be bobsledders either until Irving Blitzer realized the potential they had and led them to the Calgary Olympics in the classic Disney movie “Cool Runnings”.
So what do new 76ers coach Brett Brown and Irving Blitzer have in common?
The answer: They both helped start a great movement.
As Brown and the 76ers jet off to Europe to begin his first season as an NBA head coach, Philadunkia nation can take comfort in the fact that Brown has helped propel Australian basketball to heights it has never seen before. From an assistant coach in Melbourne to the head coach of Australia’s National Team, Brett Brown has been a success at every level of hoops “Down Under”.
Long before Brett Brown reached the NBA and helped developed the likes of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, he honed his coaching and player developing skills with 14 years of work in Australia. Brown started his coaching career as an assistant with the Melbourne Tigers under the godfather of Australian hoops, Lindsay Gaze. In 1993, Brown became head coach of the North Melbourne Giants and it only took him one year before he won the NBL championship in 1994. He was subsequently earned NBL coach of the year honors in that same season.
In 1995 Brown saw the potential of Australian basketball and joined the Australian national team (a.k.a. the “Boomers”) as an assistant coach. He was a part of the Aussie national staff for eight years, during which Brown helped guide the squad through the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games as well as 1998 World Championship. After a one year stint in the Spurs basketball operations department Brown returned to Australia to become the head coach of the Sydney Kings.
After three seasons in Sydney, he rejoined the Spurs in 2002 on a full time basis. However, even after rejoining the Spurs, Brown never cut ties with his Australian basketball roots and was named the head coach of the Australian National team in 2009. In his first year at the helm o the “Boomers” national team, Brown used his connections in the Association to secure the Aussie team a spot in the NBA summer League in Las Vegas (NBA-contracted players such as Andrew Bogut and Nathan Jawai were not allowed to play for Australia). At the time of the announcement that the Boomers would participate in the Las Vegas Summer League, Australian basketball legend and former Spurs’ reserve, Andrew Gaze gave the following quote on Brown to theage.com, “I think his vision of how to incorporate his role with the Spurs and the NBA to assist in the development of our players and provide international opportunities with the summer league camps that they’re involved in, is one that is great for their development… “
In summer 2011 Brown led Australia to the FIBA Oceania Championship over rival New Zealand to secure a bid to the 2012 Olympics. At the London games, he served as the head coach of the Australian team where the “Boomers” finished seventh. During his tenure as the head man of the Aussie squad, Brown helped develop players such as Patty Mills and St.Mary’s (CA) star Matthew Dellavedova.
In a recent phone interview, Mills who is currently with the San Antonio Spurs had nothing but praise for the 76ers new head coach. “Brett Brown…had to start from scratch. In the four years he was head coach he made amazing strides with both the team and basketball in Australia and everyone got behind him. What he was able to achieve in such a short time was tremendous,” said Mills.
“He made us an athletic and defensive oriented team”, continued Mills. “He changed the whole Australian program around from the CEO to everyone else. He got everyone to listen to him and that’s the type of guy he is.”
So, we can see that Brown had a great deal of success in Australia and on the international level with the “Boomers’ squad. We also learned that folks associated with Australian basketball have nothing but admiration and respect for Brown’s work.
But the big question for Philadunkia nation is…“Can those experiences translate to a successful head coaching stint here with the 76ers?”
I asked Mills that exact question. And he didn’t hesitate when answering.
“Definitely, Brett Brown is the type of coach that develops players really quickly and makes them gel really well. If anything he really understands his players and how to bring the best out of them. That is what we witnessed with the national team and that is what he will try to do with the Sixers. He deserves the success he has had. There’s no other coach in my life that deserves success more than him.” That’s good to hear, mate.
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