Thursday, December 5, 2013
BY GLENN JORDAN
The Portland Press Herald
The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are the only teams in the National Basketball Association with a vacancy at head coach.
The name that keeps popping up as a prime candidate for both jobs belongs to a 1979 graduate of South Portland High who cut his teeth in pro basketball Down Under.
Brett Brown, with 17 years of head coaching experience in Australia, has also earned four NBA championship rings as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs, and came within 20 seconds of winning a fifth before Miami staged an improbable comeback in Game 6 of the finals last month to defeat the Spurs in a seven-game series.
Brown, 52, may not be back for a 13th season as an assistant to San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. Not if the Celtics or 76ers lure him East. Brown also interviewed for the coaching job with the Denver Nuggets, who hired former Celtic Brian Shaw last week.
"He is as bright a young coach as I've seen come along in quite some time," said Rick Pitino, coach of reigning NCAA champion University of Louisville. "I hope it's the right situation, because he's a tremendous, tremendous person."
It was Pitino who recruited Brown to play point guard at Boston University, where Brown was named MVP as a sophomore and then captain as a junior and a senior. He remains third on the school's all-time list of assist-to-turnover ratio (2.19) and is sixth in career assists (404) and ninth in steals (141).
"We just spoke (Sunday)," Pitino said by phone from Miami. "What I tried to tell him was the mistakes that I made. You have Doc Rivers leaving Boston not because he doesn't like Boston, but because he didn't think (the Celtics) were on a track to win a championship."
Pitino is a former NBA head coach of both the Celtics and New York Knicks. While at Boston University, he hired Bob Brown -- Brett's father and high school coach -- as an assistant before Brett's junior season.
Brett and Bob Brown politely declined to comment for this story. Last week the New York Daily News reported Philadelphia had decided on Brett to replace Doug Collins as head coach, a story refuted early Friday morning by 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie.
Brett Brown's five seasons as director of player development for San Antonio have spurred speculation that he would be ideal to guide Boston through a rebuilding process. Pitino said he cautioned Brown not to be "somebody else's sacrificial lamb."
"You don't want to put all your efforts into rebuilding, only to have someone else come in and reap the rewards of your hard work," Pitino said. "Coaching in the NBA is like sticking your head in a microwave oven. It's the National Impatient League. That's something he's got to understand, going in there."
Brown's path to the upper echelon of the NBA is a long one marked by a series of acclaimed mentors, starting with his father, Bob, a member of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame for his success in high school and college. Brett was a two-year all-state guard for South Portland High, which went 29-0 his senior year with a squad that included Paul Gorham, Kenny Lynch, Paul McFarland, Paul Burnell, Mike Williams and David Cousins.
Gorham, who went on to become the head football coach at Sacred Heart University before health problems intervened, remains a lifelong friend and last month brought his daughter to Miami for a visit with Brown during the NBA finals.
"We had an opportunity to go to practice," Gorham said. "Popovich had a lot of great things to say about him."
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