Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown, who's now the official head coach of the Australian Boomers for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics, hosted a teleconference call with Australian media on Wednesday morning along with exiting Boomers head coach, Andrej Lemanis, and shared thoughts in the lead up to next year's tournament.
During the call, Brown called the appointment an "honorary position", and elaborated on what it means, and how it interweaves with his current responsibilities in the NBA, especially with the Sixers as a potential championship contender this season.
"This is something that I feel [is] a duty. I feel an opportunity for sure, but it’s a responsibility.
"I live a hectic life here in Philadelphia. The way that I’m wired, I can’t help but think often about what this is all gonna look like; who’s gonna be on the team. My sole mission right now is to coach the Philadelphia 76ers, and stay connected with the players.
Brown also expressed optimism on getting commitment from Australia's NBA players to play in the upcoming Olympics, especially on the younger generation of players that includes Ben Simmons, Jonah Bolden and Thon Maker, all of whom did not play in the World Cup.
"I think if there’s anything I learned over my years doing the national job, is the first responsibility is to get the best players to play. That, nowadays, is difficult. I feel like, from a relational standpoint, reconnecting with some of the guys, continue to obviously stay in touch with Basketball Australia, is most on my mind. "
The appeal of the Olympics, and the draw of being that team to finally break past and achieve Australia's first senior men's medal, will doubtless be a factor.
"There is nothing like the Olympic Games; there is zero like the Olympics... there’s nothing like it. There’s nothing like it. I think that’s recognised by those players, and I belieive that we will roll out Australia’s best. I feel like there’s commitment and excitement that the players are being excited to share with, and being prepared to make."
A question that arose after Basketball Australia's official release broke, was on the brief mention about assistant coaches, which most recently included Luc Longley, Will Weaver, Adam Caporn and David Patrick during the FIBA 2019 World Cup in China. Brown confirmed that news would be forthcoming on that arrangement, and how he would be managing the balance, especially with making sure the Australian coaching tree is looked after.
"The thing that I feel certain about is, I don’t feel like I can be at my best if we are all — which we are — on a six-week spread, if you have to coach the coaches and the players. It’s gonna be important for me to surround myself with people that talk my talk, that know what I think, that can be an extension of me. I want that same line of trying to make sure that you can contribute and continue helping young Australian coaches, or Australia coaches. That sort of ecosystem, it’s a little bit delicate, given that this is my 20th year in the NBA, and I have been removed from Australia for a while now.
Soon, there will be an announcement on my coaching staff; I do have that in place. Splitting the difference of trying to get people around me that have been with me, and still extending an olive branch to Australia coaches, and keeping some people in the program, that is my objective."
Ben Simmons' potential involvement in Tokyo has been a talking point, ever since Brown's appointment to the head coaching position was made known. The two have had a solid relationship, especially with Simmons' tenure in Brown's 76ers team as the starting point guard. Brown however, has declined to speak on behalf of Simmons' commitment, leaving it for his All-Star guard to make the appropriate call.
"... I think what people should here is that this is not my stage right now to introduce Ben Simmons to the Boomers," Brown shared. "I will leave that to him, and the people that advise him."
"Ben has yet to make a statement in regards to his involvement with the Boomer program going forward. I believe that will be coming, I will leave that all to him.
"In the event that it all plays out like we hope it will, I think it’s a natural pairing. He has been my point guard for the past few years. He’s gone from a college four man to an NBA point guard. In the event that it does go the direction that we all hope and expect, I will give him the ball again. When I watch the Boomers play, and I get a tremendous amount of respect by the way Andrej [Lemanis] has prepared them over since the time I left London - I think he’s done an amazing job with the group.
"I‘m hoping that the inclusion of Ben and the surrounding cast can provide insulation for some of those fragile moments, and enable us to get over the top.
"Andrej said it well; I’m not taking this job for any other reason than to win a gold medal. Time is precious for all of us. This is a very unique moment in basketball Australia history. I’m completely honoured to, once again, be a part of it."
Brown however, also mentioned that he has not made plans post-Tokyo, which could signify that this appointment is a once-off that ends after the tournament.
"I have not thought one second about what goes on after Tokyo. Somewhere in the middle of all of that, what you should here is that my main focus is to coach the Philadelphia 76ers with a true excitement, to get going with the Boomers when that time arrives."
Lemanis also shared his feelings on his departure from the program, and how his values drove the decision.
"To coach a national team is an absolute privilege and an honour, but also, as Brett just mentioned, a responsibiilty as well, to continue to do the right thing. The more I processed it — it was almost with a heavy heart, when I got to that spot and said, ‘you know what, this is actually what’s best for the team; for me to step away. Obviously it was a difficult point for me to get to, for many reasons.
"One, to walk away from the opportunity to go to the Olympics. Another one: that sense of I haven’t been able to deliver what I’d set out to deliver. That was, I guess, a difficult realisation. The more I processed it, the more it became evident that it was the right thing to do; I ended up coming to peace with it. Because, again, I have to live the values just like everybody else. You can’t preach a set of values and not abide by them yourself.
"I’ve always been a values-based coach. That then actually became pretty clear. It gave me some peace to say, this is the right thing, it’s the right thing for the team, and started the process from there. "