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Brown emphasizing fitness as camp nears

by Max Rappaport, Sixers.com
Updated: September 25, 2013

Brett Brown has been working tirelessly over the last month to assemble his coaching staff, build relationships with his new players, and figure out exactly what he has to work with on this Sixers roster. When the team opens training camp Saturday (9/28) at Saint Joseph’s University, that process will be expedited.

During a Wednesday question-and-answer session with the Philadelphia media, Brown talked at length about what he wishes to accomplish over the next several weeks. At the top of that list is instilling the virtues of top-notch physical fitness upon his players.

“When I accepted the position, where I went first was fitness,” Brown told reporters. “We put a huge [emphasis] on them trying to lose weight, getting their skin folds (body fat percentage) right, and [them coming] back in a career-best shape. 

It makes sense why Brown thinks fitness will be so important to the success of his team. At his introductory press conference last month, the former San Antonio Spurs assistant repeatedly emphasized his intention to transform the Sixers, who ranked 21st in the league in offensive pace last season, into a team that consistently pushes the tempo. His Spurs ranked sixth in the NBA in pace last season and President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Sam Hinkie’s former team, the Houston Rockets, held the top spot in that category. The Rockets and Spurs finished sixth and seventh in offensive efficiency last season, respectively, while the Sixers were 26th.

But don’t confuse this approach to fitness and pace as simple trend chasing. Brown has emphasized both throughout his coaching career. 

“This is my own, personal philosophy,” he explained, adding that he would have wanted to push those ideals no matter what team had hired him. “Fitness has been the blueprint to jobs I’ve had before, and the older you get, the more you’re around, you actually believe in it a little bit more.”

But surely Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who's helped numerous veterans extend and revive their careers, helped push Brown in this direction, right? Surprisingly, the rookie head coach credits his decade and a half spent coaching in Australia more than anything.

“I’ve really taken [my philosophy on fitness] from the Australian Institute of Sport,” said Brown, who coached in Australia from 1988-2002 and served as the head coach of the country’s national team in the 2012 Olympics in London. “With the Australian team, our goal was to be the fittest team in London. We knew we weren’t going to beat anybody with talent. I [was coaching] eight bartenders, and I loved it. They were great. They played with a physicality and played defense. We had to have a tremendous chemistry, mateship. Those were the cornerstones to the program, and here, in Philadelphia, it’s the same thing.”

Even though Brown’s new team has had just a few weeks to prepare for what will surely be a fast-paced training camp, he’s been impressed by what he’s seen in preliminary workouts so far.

“[Our team has been working out in Philadelphia] since September 9,” he said, noting that Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, and Spencer Hawes were central in organizing the voluntary sessions. “I think they’ve done a really good job with the time frame they’ve had. I’m proud of what they’ve done thus far – from an attendance perspective and from a fitness perspective.”