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SportWord play: How Sixers coach Brett Brown’s unique language drives success

18:55  07 december  2018
18:55  07 december  2018 Source:   usatoday.com

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Brett William Brown (born February 16, 1961) is an American professional basketball coach who is the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

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Word play: How Sixers coach Brett Brown’s unique language drives success© Provided by USA Today Sports Media Group LLC Apr 1, 2018; Charlotte, NC, USA; Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown during the second half against the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center. The 76ers won 119-102. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

PHILADELPHIA – Sixers coach Brett Brown has a way with words.

When he describes how he wants the basketball moving on offense, he says he wants it going from player to player "like popcorn popping."

When two teams are too friendly on the court, he says they're out there "brother-in-lawing with each other."

When he wants reporters to understand the essence of an answer, he says, "what you should hear the loudest ... "

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Descriptive. Concise. The creativity of a writer with an editor's gift for brevity.

"At this stage of my life, I value my voice because I'm worried my voice isn't as important as it once was," the 57-year-old Brown said in an interview with USA TODAY Sports. "I have assistants, but when I speak, I try to get to the point. Less is more. How do I say it? You say it. If 'popcorn popping' is the way I want to say it, I say it. That works for me at this stage of my life."

If you listen to Brown's news conferences frequently, you pick up on his sayings. They're not as much aphorisms in John Wooden fashion but more locutions – a particular form of expression or peculiarity of phrasing.

Sixers guard JJ Redick calls them Brett Brown-isms, and Brown has a bunch of them. Some are borrowed from previous coaching stops. Some he co-opted from places he once lived. Some he invented, which reveal not only a basketball philosophy but a life philosophy, too.

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"It's very effective," Redick said. "There's a clear vernacular that we use that's on our scouting report and is detailed in any film we watch. He uses the same verbiage. There's uniformity, so there’s no confusion if we’re talking about something. One of the things he loves about basketball is that it’s a team sport and any component of our game that emphasizes that, he's into it."

The Sixers hired Brown in 2013 following his 11-year stint as an assistant for Gregg Popovich's San Antonio Spurs. After guiding the Sixers through difficult seasons as they embarked on "The Process," Brown now is enjoying success.

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Word play: How Sixers coach Brett Brown’s unique language drives success© Eric Hartline, USA TODAY Sports Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown talks with center Joel Embiid.

There usually are stories behind his phrases. Such as the basketball moving like popcorn popping. Brown loves making popcorn and still has a hot-air popper.

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"First, it's healthy and it gets done in 2½ minutes," he said. "That thing gets going, pop, pop, pop. We have popcorn a lot to this day in our house. When I coach offense – and we led the NBA in passing last season – you have to get that thing moving. It's popcorn popping."

Beyond the imagery, there was once a practical application for the popcorn maker.

"When I was at Boston University, I lived in a three-story house with seven guys and we couldn't afford heat," Brown said. "In the winter time it is so cold, you could see your breath in every part of the house. You would plug that hot-air popcorn maker in just to get some heat."

Here are some of Brown's other unique sayings:

  • Vision trumps all senses. "Because I've coached so many different places, different countries, leagues, college, FIBA, Olympics, NBA, my son's young teams, that words are interpreted differently whether it's a language barrier or phrasing, so vision trumps all senses," Brown said. "When they see it, I feel they have a better chance to do it. And then you can repeat it and correct it."
  • Paint to great. That phrase is an evolution of Popovich's "good to great" where one pass turns a good shot into a great shot. Brown took it a step further. "Getting the ball into the paint is what we want," Brown said.
  • Guard the yard. Literally, make sure you're within a yard of the player you're defending. "I took that from Pop. That's a Spurs heist, and it made sense," Brown said.

And there's a story behind that, too.

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"When I played for Rick Pitino at Boston University, he would literally tape bricks to your hands and you have to go elbow to elbow doing defensive slides and you had to get 20 in a minute," Brown said. "After four years of playing for him, it's a punishing drill. Pop crystallized it. Guard the yard."

  • Horses for courses. Brown likes to use this one when he talks about using different players in different situations, such as small-ball lineups or putting more shooters on the court. Different circumstances call for different personnel. "That's from Australia," he said. "Horse racing is on the front page of every sports section every day. Some horses run better at Flemington (racecourse), some run better at others. It's like a clay court at French Open or grass court at Wimbledon."
  • Gamify. The word wasn't in the dictionary until 2010, but Brown loves to use it. In practices, he wants to make a game out of a drill, such as rebounding or deflected passes, to increase competition.

"Competition drives everything," Brown said. "Things that have time and score and you win or you lose and the winner gets a reward and the loser gets some level of punishment matter. The thing I miss the most when I stop coaching are relationships and competition. If I value something, say offensive rebounding, I'm going to gamify it through video, charts, messaging, texting. You try to zoom in on what matters most – what's most important."

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  • What's most important/what you should hear the loudest. Many of his sayings are connected. He writes "WMI" on his notes and he says it to players and reporters often. "It's my adamant way of trying to make my point," he said.
  • The gym is our compass. "You're always aware of your compass," Brown said. "I had met someone in Great Barrier Reef, a European guy, and he used the phrase in different ways, but it means where am I? It equaled where am I going? It equaled some recognition of where in the world you are. For me, where are we in the gym. The gym is my compass. That's the origin."

Australia is an important part of Brown's story. You can even hear a bit of Australian accent mixed with his Boston accent – "Bostralian."

Following college, Brown worked in telecommunications, earned money and made solid investments. But he realized he didn't want to "put on a shirt and tie" for work the rest of his life. So he quit his job and moved to Australia, where he lived for 17 years.

"I have no idea what I want to do, so I traveled all over the South Pacific. Fiji, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia. Met my wife," Brown said.

Trading corporate life for some of the world's best beaches and scenery, Brown also started coaching basketball, enjoying nearly 15 seasons in Australia's pro league. He also spent time as assistant and head coach for Australia's national team.

Brown's time overseas has given him a world perspective.

"I live on BBC World News more than I do Fox or CNN," he said.

Word play: How Sixers coach Brett Brown’s unique language drives success© Bill Streicher, USA TODAY Sports Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown talks with guard Ben Simmons.

When he saw Los Angeles Clippers forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute at a game, Brown immediately asked about the presidential situation in Cameroon, where Paul Biya had just won a seventh term (he's been president since 1982).

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Brett William Brown . Born: February 16, 1961 in South Portland, Maine. Coaching Record. Assistant Coach and Staff records might not be complete. Today' s Standings and Standings for any date in history. Play Index.

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Brown, a native of Maine who spends time there in the offseason where he can fly-fish in the deep woods, tries to set aside at least 15 minutes a day to read, watch or listen to something that strikes him. He will watch a Ted Talk or visit curiositystream.com. He just watched a Netflix documentary on minimalists and is reading "When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing."

"I'm inherently curious," Brown said. "Part of it is because I lived overseas for 17 years. You realize it's a big world. So much of it is governments and politics and natural disasters and cultures and religions, you just pay attention. It really interests me. I have a very long bucket list. I just think reading and paying attention and trying to improve yourself interests me."

During the interview, Brown revealed he had another saying that falls into his basketball and life philosophy.

"If they show you who they are, believe them," he said. "When I study my players or draft picks, sometimes you want them to be something else, and if you study people well and long enough, if they show you who they are, believe them. They have a bad attitude. They may have a great attitude. But they will show you.

"Sometimes, you wish for things, and you can trick yourself to wish them into something they are not."

Follow Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Word play: How Sixers coach Brett Brown’s unique language drives success

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