BOSTON — Brett Brown doesn’t really have his New England accent anymore, but he never really lost it, either. Somewhere along the way, in his travels from South Portland, Maine, through extended stays in Australia and San Antonio and now to Philadelphia, Brown’s voice became a mixture of tones from multiple corners of the world.
“Tim Duncan called it ‘Bos-tralian,’” Brown joked.
Brown made his first appearance at TD Garden as a head coach Wednesday, leading the Philadelphia 76ers to a 95-94 victory over the Boston Celtics. Standing in the bowels of a building he visited numerous times in the last dozen years as a Spurs assistant, right next to the site of the old Boston Garden where he watched games as a kid, was more than a dream come true.
Dreams are something a person has and holds onto. Brown never considered the possibility at all.
“For so long, you’re just happy to coach basketball,” Brown said. “I’ve coached all levels, in different countries, in the Olympic games, in the NBA, been a part of some Finals. Now, to come in here and be responsible for an NBA team, especially one as storied as the Philadelphia 76ers … to think at one point you were going to be here, it never crossed my mind.”
Few coaches have been so influential for so long with so little recognition as Brown. After playing for Rick Pitino at Boston University, Brown coached in Australia for 15 years, eventually heading the Australian national team. He joined Gregg Popovich’s staff in San Antonio in 2002, helping the Spurs reach five NBA Finals and win four championships.
Brown’s life was secure and stable, he said. He took pride in not being a “gypsy” coach. The length of time he spent in Australia and with the Spurs was evidence Brown did not approach change lightly. But when the Sixers job opened up, giving him a chance to coach in the historic rivalry he grew up watching — albeit on the other side — he finally left the comfort of southern Texas.
Now, he’s in Philadelphia, a blue-collar city he finds to be a lot like Boston in many ways. In a dozen or so years, he might find himself telling his players to take a “wooder” break and discover he’s added a South Philly inflection to his trademark “Bos-tralian.” At this point, what’s another regional lilt on top of all the ones he already has?
“In 12 years with the Spurs and Pop, they weren’t sure what my accent was,” Brown said. “When you live in a place that long, I suppose you get absorbed with a little bit of the twang.”