The Sixers have officially fired Brett Brown, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone—he’s been a dead man walking for months now barring a Finals run. Rather than wasting breathe groaning about his failures, or spewing some flowery bullshit about how thankful we should be for his time here, I’ll move right along to a list of his potential replacements.
Say what you will about the Sixers current situation, but coaches will be lining up to apply for a job that allows them to coach Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, and the organization will presumably have their pick of the litter. We’re already hearing a number of names being floated, and the PR jockeying between candidates has clearly begun.
Here are four names who are being rumored for the job, and who would be a good fit for the franchise moving forward.
I’ll start with Lue because he’s getting a lot of the early play in terms of “mutual interest” rumors, yada-yada, but I would be shocked if he’s the best they can come up with. It’s not a knock on Lue, I just think a job like this one should attract a head coach who has a track record of success outside of Lebron James.
While Lue certainly wasn’t the push-over in Cleveland that some will lead you to believe, and his experience coaching in the Finals is valuable, I have a hard time imagining he’ll end up atop their list. That being said, if a more appealing option fails to materialize I don’t have any problems with Lue. He’s good with players, and is defensive-minded, two qualities I’d prefer in our next coach regardless of name.
Please spare me the, “why would he leave Nova,” “that’s a pipe dream,” and the same-old refrains I’ve heard for years on Wright. The idea that he would never leave the college ranks was always silly—sure, he was never going to jump ship for just any job, but the idea that there wasn’t the possibility of the ideal pro job materializing has always been a bit much.
College success, no matter the sport, is pretty meaningless in terms of legacy. These coaches are often diefied, but rarely ever beyond the scope of the alumnus they’re connected to. Success at the professional level, on the other hand, carries more weight in terms of legacy. “Legacy” may seem like nonsense to you or I, but it’s something every successful coach considers at some point. Within their respective professions it’s well understood which level of coach garners more respect.
It’s no secret that Wright has long been the apple of the NBA’s eye, and if there was ever an opportunity for him to leap at it’s one in his home city and one that starts him off on second base, so to speak, with two young cornerstone players to build around. Wright’s emphasis on spacing and ball movement would do wonders in opening up the Sixers offense—regardless of personnel—and his emphasis on switching-defense and position-less basketball is tailor-made for today’s NBA.
If not for Wright being linked to the job, Dantoni would be my top choice—that’s assuming he is in fact available after his contract with the Rockets expires. While there certainly wouldn’t be any “seven seconds or less” offense here, or the five-out offense we see in Houston, Dantoni’s broader emphasis on space, pace, and threes are the perfect ingredients to modernize the Sixers offense.
While some might have a concern over Dantoni’s strategic “fit” with Embiid and Simmons, he’s not the rigid mind that some are suggesting. At each stop in Phoenix, New York, (let’s ignore LA), and Houston, he’s adopted a slightly different offensive system to match his players, and I have no doubt he’ll do the same here.
Given Dantoni’s strong track record coaching up elite offenses, he might actually be the perfect coach to pair with Embiid—whose presence alone makes any defense top-10. That may sound like an oversimplification—adding the coach who can supplement your roster’s perceived weakness, rather than hiring a coach who can lean into their strengths—but sometimes it’s that simple.
Stan Van Gundy
Anyone who’s watched Sixers games in the last year—presumably everyone who’s reading this piece—has heard SVG on the TNT broadcast openly lobby for the Sixers head coaching job, and that effort won’t go unnoticed. Will he be interviewed? Probably. Is he a favorite? Probably not.
I’m a fan of any coach who isn’t married to any one play style, but is instead guided by a set of principles, and Stan’s credo of playing hard defense and shooting a lot of threes is music to my ears. There are a lot of coaches who satisfy that criteria, but Stan’s success in Orlando earns him a lot of confidence compared to the other coaches on this list.
Don’t get me wrong, I endorse every name on this list, but Stan is the only with respectable (earned) NBA Finals experience, and his teams never sank in the playoffs in the way that Dantoni’s (and even Wright’s) have in their respective postseasons. SVG isn’t some hot new name, but he’s a pretty safe choice if this is what it comes down to.