Sunday, March 9, 2014
By DICK JERARDI Philadelphia Daily News
PHILADELPHIA - Rick Pitino and Brett Brown go back nearly 35 years. When the Louisville coach noticed on the ESPN ticker six weeks ago that the Philadelphia 76ers were about to hire Brown, he texted congratulations to his former player and longtime friend, telling him he was going to have some champagne in his honor.
Brown told him to "have the glass, but hold off because this is far from over."
Pitino explained it was all over the ticker.
"I know Coach, I don't know where that's coming from but there's no truth to it," Brown said.
Pitino told that story Tuesday from California, where he is taking in the races at Del Mar.
In the last few days, Pitino has been able to congratulate Brown for real. He is indeed the next Sixers coach. Pitino is not surprised. He saw a coach when he recruited Brown as a high school player out of South Portland High.
"His dad (Bob) was the high school coach and I wound up later hiring his dad, as well," said Pitino, who was a first-time head coach at Boston University at the time. "Was really, really impressed with the program his dad ran. His dad was super well organized, one of the better high school coaches in the history of that state.
"Brett had great speed, very quick guard, outstanding playmaker, had a great mind for the game. It was a no-brainer for me to recruit him."
Brown was a very good player for Pitino.
"He was the starting point guard," Pitino said. "He was much more athletic than most of the kids you see coming out of Maine. He was very, very fast and had outstanding hands."
When Brown went to Australia to coach, Pitino lost contact with him. When Brown became one of Gregg Popovich's assistants in San Antonio, the two got close again.
"He's got a world of experience and he's also just a tremendous person," Pitino said. "He's someone that listens as well as he directs. He's got a great personality. And he understands the job at hand."
The coaches talked about the Sixers. There's no confusion. This will be a bad team this season and probably next.
"He said, 'Coach, it's going to be a difficult two years,' " Pitino said. "And I said, 'Well, it's going to be a difficult two years for the Celtics as well.' It's moving forward (toward) what Year 3 and 4 will be like. If you think 3 and 4 is a great opportunity, that's what you have to base it on -- the future, not where you are right now. And he agreed with me."
Pitino, who won the national title this year with Louisville, knows enough about the NBA to understand teardowns are often the only prelude to a contender.
"It's rebuilding it the right way so once you get there, it holds on for about six, seven years, and you have a really good run," Pitino said.
Brown will need to be the good teacher everybody, including Pitino, knows him to be. And he will need to be lucky, something Pitino wasn't when he left Kentucky in 1997 for the Celts' job.
Boston had all those pingpong balls in the lottery but did not get Tim Duncan. The Sixers will need to get lucky in the 2014 and 2015 lotteries.
"I thought this year's draft was as weak as I've seen it in quite some time," Pitino said. "The good thing is I think the next two years will be stronger than quite some time. Obviously, Philadelphia is going to have some draft picks that, if you get lucky, you're going to get an outstanding basketball player."
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