Why Firing Brett Brown is Only the First Step for 76ers

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

When the news came out on Monday evening about the firing of Brett Brown, Sixers fans everywhere rejoiced because it had become clear that Brown's time in Philadelphia was up. After getting swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics, the 76ers are in a situation where a lot has to change for things to get better before next season. Firing Brown, the team's coach for the past seven seasons, is only the first step in hopefully transforming the team from the one which got swept by Boston to a team that can contend for championships.

One of the things that must change this offseason is the roster construction. The 76ers' two superstars are Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, both of whom would benefit greatly from being surrounded by outside shooters.

However, last offseason general manager Elton Brand made the decision to build the team around a "bully ball" style of offense. The 76ers traded away Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat in which the team acquired Josh Richardson. The team then re-signed Tobias Harris to a five-year, $180 million contract that he has vastly underperformed in so far. The final piece on the cake, and the one that hurt the 76ers this season the most, was giving Al Horford a four-year contract worth $109 million. Last offseason's experiment to build a team around big men proved, after one season, to be a critical mistake which could hold the team back for some of the most important years of Embiid's and Simmons' careers.

It is so clear that the 76ers need to surround their superstar duo with outside shooters. Simmons can not or refuses to shoot the ball from outside and Embiid would benefit from the spacing provided by having someone who is a knockdown 3-point shooter. The fact that Brand made the conscious decision to forego getting outside shooters and guards in a guard-dominated league, instead going the path of stacking up on centers, is mind boggling.

Firing Brown and bringing in a new coaching staff will not in and of itself transform the 76ers into a team that can contend for a championship next season. Brand, despite his prior mistakes last offseason, is still in his role as the general manager as the 76ers potentially go through more front office change over the coming days and weeks. Will he recognize his mistakes and how will he plan on improving and building the team around Embiid and Simmons? Those are some questions Sixers fans will be tuning in to throughout this offseason.

The second thing that must change for the 76ers this offseason is an improvement in accountability amongst everyone involved with the team. Firing Brown, who failed to hold some of the players accountable over his tenure with the Sixers, will help some in this matter, but it is not the clear-cut solution. 

Richardson, after saying there was not much accountability among the team this season, was asked how the 76ers could address that issue:

"It just has to start," he said. "There’s always gotta be a Day 1. We’ve just gotta start from scratch. It’s not gonna be easy and we’re not gonna be comfortable, but that’s what championship teams do. (When) guys are not doing their job on or off the court, there’s gotta be some kind of consequence — not consequence, but we’ve gotta be able to talk to each other and listen. 

"And not (just) listen to say something back, but actually hear (each other). It’s a hard lesson to learn for some people, but in order for us to make this playoff run that I think we all want, I know we all want, it’s gotta start."

In Jimmy Butler the 76ers did have a player who took pride in holding people accountable, but they traded him away last offseason. It is up to the rest of the roster to hold everyone accountable, and Richardson – who led a players-only meeting earlier in the season – will play a big part in that.

The 76ers' two superstars, Embiid and Simmons, both have a clear weakness that will need to be addressed in order for both them as individual players and the team as a whole to reach their full potential. Embiid needs to get consistently in better shape in order to stay healthy, while Simmons needs to start taking outside shots to open up an entire new aspect to his game on the floor.

Part of the team's accountability issues stem with the two star players not being held accountable, at least to this point in their careers. Whoever the next coach of the Sixers is will have to work on holding Embiid and Simmons accountable in order for the team to take the next step regardless of if the roster construction around them improves.