PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia 76ers fired coach Brett Brown on Monday, a day after his seventh season ended in a first-round postseason sweep.
The 76ers were 43-30 this season and had woefully underachieved in a year when they were expected to be serious contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Instead, they weren’t close, and the move was expected after the sixth-seeded Sixers were swept by the Boston Celtics.
Brown had guided the 76ers back from the bottom of the NBA, but now someone else will try to take them further.
“I have a tremendous level of respect for Brett both personally and professionally and appreciate all he’s done for the 76ers organization and the City of Philadelphia,” general manager Elton Brand said in a statement. “He did many positive things during his time here, developing young talent and helping position our team for three straight postseason appearances. Unfortunately, we fell well short of our goals this year and I believe it is best to go in a new direction.”
Brown finished 221-344, though his record was never going to be pretty because the Sixers weren’t trying to win when he was hired.
Brown was tasked with the leading the Sixers through a rebuild dubbed “The Process,” where management stripped the roster of serious NBA talent to lose games and increase their odds at better draft picks. Brown won only 47 games in his first three seasons, including a 10-72 record in 2015-16.
The philosophy paid off when the drafted Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, who would both become All-Stars and lead the Sixers to two straight trips to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
But Simmons missed the postseason with a knee injury and neither Embiid nor the players brought in in recent years could provide enough scoring in clutch situations against Boston.
The 76ers said they would begin a search for a new coach immediately.
“In 2013, I was employed to lead one of the most dramatic rebuilds in professional sports history. In the past seven years, our players and coaches have evolved and grown, and I have deep appreciation for the 102 players I have coached,” Brown said.
The Sixers believed they were ready to contend for their first championship in 37 years and Brand spent $180 million to re-sign Tobias Harris and nearly $100 million to sign free agent Al Horford away from Boston.
Instead, the Sixers had only snippets of consistent success and Brown paid the price, the longtime San Antonio Spurs assistant coach now out of a job on a contract that runs through the 2021-2022 season.
Even with two 26-game losing streaks on Brown’s resume, the front office never wavered early in his tenure that Brown was the right coach to bring Philadelphia its first championship since 1983. He steered the franchise as interim general manager in 2018 after Bryan Colangelo was fired amid a Twitter scandal.
But the Sixers’ support started to wean at the end of the last season, as team owner Josh Harris for the first time put public pressure on Brown to at least reach the East final. And at an impromptu news conference before the start of the playoffs, Harris refused to say if Brown would return and offered only a lukewarm endorsement of his performance.
Another lukewarm endorsement of Brown came Sunday from guard Josh Richardson after the Sixers’ elimination.
“He’s a good guy, he’s a good man, he means well. I just think going forward he’s got to ask more accountability,” Richardson said. “I don’t think there was much accountability this season and I think that was part of our problem.”