The 76ers Are About To Pluck Another Coach From Gregg Popovich's Tree

Brett brown 76ers coach Gregg Popovich Spurs Coaching TreeRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesBrett Brown with Manu Ginobili

Adrian Wojnarowski, of Yahoo! Sports, reports the Philadelphia 76ers are
in contract negotiationswith San Antonio Spurs assistant Brett Brown to become their new head coach.

If Brown signs he would be the second Spurs assistant to earn a head coaching job this offseason. Mike Budenholzer, Popovich’s top assistant last year, agreed to lead the Atlanta Hawks during this year’s playoffs.

Along with Budenholzer, Brown would become the fifth active NBA head coach with strong ties to Popovich. Orlando Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn worked under Popovich as an assistant for two years; Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown was an assistant from 2000-2003 and New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams played for the Spurs in Popovich’s first two seasons in San Antonio.

One out of five NBA teams will play for Popovich or Popovich-influenced coaches next season. No other active head coach can boast anything close to Popovich’s tree.

Of course, part of this is what you would expect from the longest tenured coach in major American sports. Going into his 18th season as the Spurs coach, Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford have ties to a majority of NBA benches and front offices.

As ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle wrote in June (the article is behind ESPN’s Insider paywall), Popovich-Buford acolytes run the Oklahoma City Thunder (Sam Presti), New Orleans Pelicans (Dell Demps), Indiana Pacers (Kevin Pritchard), the Orlando Magic (Rob Hennigan) and Utah Jazz (Dennis Lindsey).

The Spurs are a model franchise for a variety of reasons. It would be foolish to say the biggest factor is anything besides winning. Popovich went 17-47 in his first year. Since then, his teams have posted 16 consecutive winning records.

Much of the Spurs selfless play is attributed to Popovich’s willingness to harp on anyone, including his star players. He also develops high levels of trust in his teams. He is just as willing to let his team play through a difficult stretch when most coaches would call a timeout as he is to stop a game early in the first quarter with his team up when he notices something awry.

All great coach’s coaching trees are not equal. Bill Belichick assistants consistently find opportunity outside of New England, but just look to Romeo Crennel or Josh McDaniels to see how much greener the grass is on the other side.

Popovich himself comes from the Larry Brown-Dean Smith coaching tree. It is too early to judge Pop’s proteges, but there is no doubt they are earning ample chances to prove themselves.

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