Hey everybody, I’m guessing that, if you’ve followed the series from the beginning you’ve noticed that every post came very early in the morning. Well, I had a little trouble with this one.
For you Sixers aficionados, 17 was going to be Johnny Dawkins. Why? Simple – I goofed.
Stats: 10 PTS, 6 AST, 1.2 STL per game
You see, I made sure to look at every Sixer based on statistics, reputation, and team success, like I mentioned two weeks ago. However, I messed up when taking down Johnny Dawkins’ stats. I had his playing 5 full seasons and two playoff teams with good averages, but I failed to realize that he missed nearly an entire season with an injury – that season was one of the two playoff appearances I had him playing in. I actually knew this too, but like I said, I goofed. So he really played for 4 seasons, started for 2, made the playoffs in 1. While that’s nice, combined with his 10 points and 6 assists (roughly), would put him on the bottom half of the list, around, say, Elton Brand territory. But I factored in an extra season at 4 games worth of numbers (which were great) instead of it being a missed year, which vaulted him up my rankings based on his statistics. My mistake, and I should admittedly know more about him and his impact on the team. By default, he ends up at 17, though he should be 8-10 spots lower.
I don’t have much to go on about Dawkins. So instead of analyzing him more, I’m switching over to talking about someone else, whose coaching moved some of these players up this list: Larry Brown.
Stats: 255-205 record as coach, 5 playoff appearances, 1 finals appearance
Accolades: 2000-01 NBA Coach of the Year
Larry Brown was always known as a nomadic coach. His six seasons in Philadelphia marked the longest-lasting coaching gig in his NBA, ABA, or college coaching career. Always regarded as being tough on his players, he nonetheless got the best out of them, until he wore down and looked to move elsewhere. Yet, despite this, his leaving Philadelphia was a bit of a shock. Why? Well, he stuck it out for six years while enduring an on-again off-again relationship with Allen Iverson and roster turnover that you rarely find in today’s NBA. Granted, he contributed heartily to the switches, but the constant change left little room for error for the coach.
Despite his short-comings, Brown was a fine coach. He led the turnaround from a perennial loser to a stretch of 5 straight winning seasons and a finals appearance. He made the NBA career of Eric Snow, who has yet to appear on this list, but will show up soon. He consistently got his teams to play defense – the Sixers teams he coached until 2001-02 were offensively challenged, as only Allen Iverson could create his own shot reliably. Their finals team, despite finishing 56-26, was average offensively, exactly mid-pack in points per game, the best during his time as coach. Iverson averaged 31 points – no one else that ended the year on the team averaged even 12!* Brown tried his best to make up for it – he was the master of drawing up situational plays – coming out of timeouts, no one was better than Larry Brown at getting easy points for his players. And because his teams were so good on defense, they seemingly always had a chance to win. Overall, including a 31-51 debut season, Brown’s Sixers went 255-205 with a Finals appearance, the best stretch of Sixers basketball since the mid-80s.
*Theo Ratliff had slightly more than 12, but was traded mid-season.
Since Larry Brown left the Sixers to take over the Detroit Pistons, he’s been stuck on a more unstable roller coaster than his relationship with Allen Iverson. He won a title in Detroit with a “starless” team, a stark contrast to his days here, where he led a team that surrounded a superstar. He reportedly searched for another job while serving as coach – despite two finals appearances in two seasons, Larry Brown left Detroit for New York, taking over in a bigger situation but one saddled with mismatched talent, an inept front office, an oddball owner, and expectations for improvement due to his track record with turnarounds for other teams. Then reality hit that even Larry Brown couldn’t handle that amount of dysfunction – he was fired after one year. He then returned in a front office capacity for the Sixers for a while before returning to full-time head coaching with the Charlotte Bobcats, leading them to their only playoff appearance. However, he was fired after 2+ seasons there.
Larry Brown’s nomadic tendencies faded away for a few years while in Philadelphia. Combined with his consultation services, Brown has spent more time in Philadelphia than anywhere as a head coach. The 76ers organization is better today for his coaching. And he’s the best Sixers coach of the past 30 NBA seasons.