The recent San Antonio Spurs game against the Philadelphia 76ers presented the Spurs’ head coach and players with much more than just another stop on an east coast road trip.
Unlike this time last year, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had to look across the sideline to the other bench to see a familiar face that had been by his side for seven years.
Instead of huddling up with Pop and the other coaches during timeouts while they discussed what Popovich would end up diagramming on a grease board for the players, Brown was on the other bench leading his own group of coaches and players.
"You'll find out shortly that he's for real," Popovich told Philly.com recently. "Brett did as much as I did."
It’s not lost on Brown that he was fortunate enough to coach under Popovich after other positions held with the team before he left for the head coaching job in Philadelphia this summer.
"Pop is arguably the most influential basketball person I've had outside of my father [Bob Brown, a New England Hall of Famer]," Brown said. "He has been beyond kind to me, beyond influential in my life.
"To be able to coach against the Spurs, and see the guys that I have been with for a long time, it's a privilege that I don't take lightly."
While Brown could be looking to take the lessons he learned under Popovich and apply them to his new team, the teams are at different places and Brown finds himself with a young team with a rookie point guard instead of a core group that has been together for what seems like ages. Because of this , Brown has tweaked his approach to fit his team best, but Popovich is still just a phone call away when Brown needs guidance.
"I always get something from him," Brown said. "He's one of those guys you hang up the phone and you feel a little bit better than when you started the phone call."
Seeing familiar faces on opposing benches is something that’s becoming a trend for Popovich, as consistent success usually leads to other teams looking to pluck a bit of that winning experience away.
The NBA map is now peppered with several coaches in key positions who served on Pop’s bench, and Brown seems to be on to a great start, maybe not in replicating the Spurs’ success, but in passing along that contagious winning spirit onto a new team.
While many expected the 76ers to be a bottom dweller in the Eastern Conference and that Brown was taking a no-win position, they have surprised early on (tied for 1st in the Atlantic) and even defeated the defending champions, which was likely some sweet revenge for Brown, who likely still has some silver and black left under all the 76ers red and blue.