This is an article from the Dec. 14, 2015 issue
HOLDING IT TOGETHER
With the youngest NBA team (average age: 22.8), a 1--20 start and his top player suspended for off-the-court issues, the 54-year-old 76ers coach is still teaching the fundamentals.
DAN PATRICK: Did you celebrate your first win of the season [against the Lakers on Dec. 1]?
BRETT BROWN: A little bit. We feel a tiny bit guilty [for celebrating] because it is, like you say, just one win. But for our young team it matters. So there was a quiet, tiny celebration, and we're not ashamed of it.
DP: How do you make sure your young players don't get used to losing?
BB: I try to share stories about the privileges I had working with [Gregg Popovich] and the Spurs for 12 years. We [won] four NBA championships. I talk a lot about routine and knocking out good days. The greatest challenge is keeping the locker room together when you lose.
DP: Has losing played a role in [rookie center] Jahlil Okafor's off-the-court issues—speeding and getting into fights?
BB: We would all be naive to think it doesn't have some level of effect. [Jahlil] has been used to winning. He is one of the major faces of our program. He is a prideful young man. You add it all up, not to make excuses, but I think out of just fairness and reality ... I believe a portion of it has impacted his mind-set.
DP: Have you talked to him about these issues?
BB: I have. I am the father of a teenager. You have a lot of responsibility to help them grow as people and as professionals. It's never ending. Apart from telling [the players], "this is how we're going to run a pick-and-roll" or what play we're gonna run, you have to put your parent hat on.
DP: How do you help young players without a lot of veterans on the team?
BB: This situation [with Jahlil] has forced everybody to look at things a bit more closely. As with anything, there are areas you wish you could do better or areas you're not proud of. The reality is we have to create an environment that is different to accommodate our young team. This is not a typical NBA job. We do have veterans, like Carl Landry, but a lot of it falls on me and the coaching staff. We're the senior voices. That's how the team has been built. It's my job to coach what we have and move it forward.
DP: Do you think Joel Embiid [who was drafted by the 76ers with the third pick in 2014 but has yet to play a game because of an injury to his right foot] will ever play for the 76ers?
BB: I do hold out hope. I think that we haven't skipped any steps with his recovery and return to play. So I do believe he will play for the 76ers.
Hall of Fame guard Jerry West told me it's difficult to watch Kobe Bryant play for the Lakers (3--17 through Sunday) in Bryant's final season. "[For] as much as he likes to win, now he's playing with a team that is not capable of winning at a high level," West said. "I don't know how he goes to bed at night."... NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino said the number of errors his crews are making in games has not increased, despite the recent criticism: "I've been a part of this for 21 years, and I've never seen this much scrutiny. There's more outlets for people to communicate their opinions."... Warriors forward Draymond Green discussed the challenge of playing with Steph Curry. "Last year there were times we just sat there and watched Steph," Green told me. "[Coach] Steve Kerr used to say, 'Keep moving.' We've gotten a lot better."