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How Mike Brown's military upbringing is helping Kings find success

In using some of the tools he acquired growing up in a military family, coach Mike Brown has Sacramento on track.

Frank Isola and Brian Scalabrine delve into how Mike Brown's leadership has helped Sacramento win again.

Like the bright purple beam that darts out of Golden 1 Center after a win this season, the Sacramento Kings are trying to make a statement as well.

Sacramento is 9-6 and No. 5 in the Western Conference entering Tuesday’s games. That start has the Kings hoping they can halt their 16-year playoff drought, the league’s longest current active playoff dry spell. To put that in perspective, the last time the Kings made the playoffs (in May of 2006), rookie Keegan Murray was a 5-year-old and All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis was 10 … and his father, Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, was three years removed from his last NBA season.

The talk surrounding the Kings’ success goes hand in hand with the culture coach Mike Brown is working to build. He left an assistant coaching position with the Golden State Warriors to start a new journey 87 miles northwest as Sacramento’s 21st coach. That newfound culture is perhaps the biggest catalyst to their underdog story.

With De’Aaron Fox leading the way as the Kings’ top scorer (25.4 points per game) and playmaker (6.4 assists per game), the Kings are growing in confidence.

”We’re all bought in,” Murray said after a win vs. the Golden State Warriors last week. ”We know we can compete with any team in the league.”

From beating the 2021-22 Eastern Conference finalist Miami Heat in October to the win against Golden State, others around the league are taking notice, too. “I think [Brown] is getting a lot out of that team,” Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant said recently

But how did Brown learn the values that are so ingrained to the success of his team?  

“I attribute a lot of my success to my upbringing,” Brown said in a June interview with the team’s web site. “The values that [my parents] taught me helped me become the person who I am today.”

Brown, whose global upbringing brought him to countries like Japan and Germany, lived on military bases in Ramstein and Würzburg, Germany (among other places) during his formative years. Those stops molded the lifestyle and values that he passed on to his family. 

The Brown family lived on base surrounded by four-story apartment buildings, occupied by other military families where his father served more than 25 years in the Air Force. Despite the diversity between individual families, there was an overarching sense of unity.

Everybody that lived in those buildings, their parents — their mom or their dad or both — were in the service,” Brown said in a phone interview Friday. “And because everybody was in the service, there was a commonality amongst the different families that were there.”

Between the stairwells of the complex, Brown learned that the family was bigger than the four walls of his individual unit.

“Everyone looked out for one another … and so you took care of one another,” Brown said. “So having that sense of community, togetherness, accountability — not just from your family but from other families — was really, really, really huge.”

However, the individual relationships in the family — especially between Brown and his father — instilled numerous core values similar to King’s success: ownership, trust, and hard work.

“My dad was enlisted — he wasn’t an officer and so he had a few people above him — but the neat part about it is I never interacted a ton with his boss,” Brown said.

“A lot of times he did his own thing and it wasn’t like there was some drill sergeant above his head, yelling every five minutes for him to do this [or] do that. It was like he had an assignment to do and he went and he did it.”  

Kings coach Mike Brown says he learned a strong work ethic and more from his military upbringing.

Despite his father’s busy schedule, he always found time to encourage his son and his passions.

“I [feel] like I have a pretty good work ethic. I got that — I feel like — from my dad,” Brown said. “My dad would leave before I woke up, he’d leave to go to work and then he’d be home sometimes after five or six and so he put in almost [a] 10-hour day if not more.”

But his day didn’t end there.

“He knew that I liked the game and I wanted to be as good as I can, [so] after dinner he would take me to the gym and he’d rebound for me — time after time after time after time without complaining,” Brown said. “That type of work ethic, in my opinion, translated to me and what I’m trying to accomplish not only with my family but also in my professional life.”  

That dedication has translated to some early-season success for the Kings, who host the Memphis Grizzlies tonight (8 ET, NBA League Pass) and hope to extend their win streak to seven games.

“Every organization out there — in my opinion — has a soul. The stronger that soul is, the better that organization will be.” Brown said in his introductory news conference.

In Sacramento, Brown is working to rediscover the soul of the Kings for years to come.

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