After an extremely disappointing 2019-20 season, the Philadelphia 76ers decided to part ways with head coach Brett Brown. Over the course of his seven seasons in Philadelphia, Brown took the team from the basement to contention, but ultimately he couldn’t get it over the top. Now, the organization will begin a search for a new head coach, led by general manager Elton Brand. In terms of the search, Brand said that he won’t rush the decision, and that a wide array of candidates will be considered.

That said, here’s a look at five potential replacements for Brown in Philadelphia. 

Tyronn Lue, assistant coach for Los Angeles Clippers 

Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Tyronn Lue is Philadelphia’s top target, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Aside from getting crossed up and stepped over by Allen Iverson as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals, Lue is best known for coaching the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers to three straight Finals appearances from 2016 to 2018, and the franchise’s first NBA title in ’16. In addition to winning a ring as a head coach, Lue also won two titles during his playing days with the Lakers, so he has learned what it takes to win at the highest level, both as a player and a coach. This experience is obviously very intriguing to the Sixers. 

While coaching the Cavs through three deep postseason runs, Lue demonstrated an ability to make changes — both in terms of personnel and game plan — on the fly. This was an area that Brown didn’t always excel at during his seven seasons with the Sixers. Lue is also unafraid to call out his best players, as he did with LeBron during the 2016 Finals. As a coach, if you’re willing to call out James, you’d be comfortable calling out anyone. For a team that has lacked accountability, this could be a very important trait for a head coach to have. 

The Sixers will have some competition for Lue, as he expected to be a candidate for other openings, including the one in Brooklyn. For Lue, taking the job in Brooklyn would mean reuniting with Kyrie Irving, who he coached in Cleveland. This is something that he is reportedly interested in. But he is also intrigued by the talent on the Sixers, according to Wojnarowski, so ultimately he may have to decide which job is a better fit for him. 

The concern here for the Sixers is that Lue’s only success as a head coach in the NBA has come with LeBron James, arguably the greatest player of all time, on his team. It’s objectively easier to lead a team to a title when you have a talent like that in tow. Elite players have the ability to make an average coach look really good. Now, that doesn’t mean that Lue won’t be able to achieve similar success elsewhere, but his ability to win without a James-level talent is not proven at this point. 

Jay Wright, head coach for Villanova Wildcats

There is a sector of fans in Philadelphia that has been hoping for this move to be made for a while. Wright is a Philly guy. He grew up in Bucks County, and has been the head coach of the Villanova Wildcats since 2001. During that time, he has built the program into a national powerhouse and has won two national titles in the process. A plethora of his players have also gone on to find a home in the NBA. The list of players that Wright coached at Villanova currently in the league consists of Kyle Lowry, Josh Hart, Eric Paschall, Ryan Arcidiacono, Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo. Wright also has experience coaching the NBA’s elite, too, as he has served as an assistant on Team USA. 

Wright has admitted to being intrigued by the opportunity to coach in the NBA in the past, but the passion that he has for his current position with the Wildcats has previously prevented him from making the jump. 

“The NBA does intrigue me,” Wright said in 2018. “That challenge is appealing, but it’s not worth giving up working with these guys. The whole thing is, to take up a new challenge you have to give up what you have. I don’t want to give up what I have. Would I like to coach in the NBA? Yes. But I have to give this up in order to do that, and I don’t see that happening.”

If Wright was ever going to make the leap to the NBA, however, the chance to take over his hometown team with two young All-Stars already in place seems like an ideal opportunity. The concern here for the Sixers is obviously Wright’s lack of professional experience. No matter how much success a coach enjoys at the collegiate level, there’s no guarantee that that success will translate to the pros. For a team with championship aspirations and a finite title window, hiring a rookie coach would be a bit of a risk. 

Ime Udoka, assistant coach for Philadelphia 76ers 

Could Brett Brown’s potential replacement already be on the Sixers’ staff? After seven years as an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs, Ime Udoka joined the Sixers in June of 2019, and he served as the team’s top assistant and defensive coordinator this past season. Under Udoka, Philadelphia had the eighth-ranked defense during the regular season, which is definitely respectable. In turn, Udoka has been mentioned as a candidate for other openings in Chicago and Brooklyn. 

If Udoka is ultimately selected as the 76ers’ next head coach, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that a coach was fired and then replaced by an assistant. The Raptors did it two years ago — replacing Dwane Casey for Nick Nurse — and then went on to win an NBA title (though the acquisition of Kawhi Leonard had a little something to do with that title, too). Again, the concern here for Philadelphia is a lack of head-coaching experience at the professional level. It seems like a risky proposition for the organization to entrust its title hopes to a novice. Plus, if the franchise is looking to start fresh and move past the Brett Brown era, promoting one of his assistants might not be the route that the front office wants to take. 

Stan Van Gundy, former head coach for Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons 

Stan Van Gundy was not a fan of Philadelphia’s “Process” while it was happening. He even went as far as calling it “embarrassing.” 

“Not what Philadelphia is doing right now, which is embarrassing,” Van Gundy said in 2014. “I don’t care, [commissioner] Adam Silver can say there’s no tanking or what’s going on [but] if you’re putting that roster on the floor, you’re doing everything you can possibly do to try to lose.”

That may have been how Van Gundy felt at the time, but now that the Sixers have come out on the other side and have two young All-Stars to show for it, perhaps his tune has changed a bit. Van Gundy has repeatedly gushed over Ben Simmons’ ability as a defender, and even stated that he thought Simmons should be named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year this season. While making such comments, Van Gundy certainly sounded like someone potentially interested in coaching Simmons and the Sixers

Van Gundy has experience when it comes to leading teams deep into the postseason. He led the Heat to the Eastern Conference finals in 2005 (they lost to the Detroit Pistons in seven games) and his Orlando Magic team made it to the NBA Finals in 2009. He also has ample experience in coaching teams centered around really talented big men. Van Gundy’s teams in Miami were anchored by Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal, and he led the Magic to the Finals with an offensive and defensive game plan completely centered around Dwight Howard. Most recently, Van Gundy coached All-Star center Andre Drummond in Detroit. As such, he might have some innovative ideas about how to build a playbook around Embiid. 

The knock on Van Gundy, of course, is that he was never able to lead a team all the way to a title, and his relationship with Shaq and the Heat, Howard and the Magic ended on a sour note. He is known for holding his players accountable though, and that could go a long way in Philadelphia. 

Adrian Griffin, assistant coach for Toronto Raptors 

Griffin is a name that has been on Philadelphia’s radar for quite some time. The Sixers interviewed Griffin for their head coaching gig back in 2013 before they ultimately decided on Brown. They were so impressed by Griffin, in fact, that he was granted a second interview. Though they ultimately went in a different direction, the Sixers were clearly intrigued by Griffin, and some of that intrigue likely still lingers. Griffin has ample experience as an assistant in the league. He has held that role for five different franchises, and he won a title with the Raptors last season. 

Earlier this month, Griffin actually served as Toronto’s head coach for its seeding game against the 76ers, as Nick Nurse wanted his assistant to get a feel for what it was like to be a head coach in the league. Griffin coached the Raptors to a 125-121 win, and at the time there was some speculation that the move was made so that Griffin could showcase his skills against a Sixers organization that might be in the market for a new head coach after the season. We may never know if this was the true motivation behind the move, but it very well might have been. 

“Hopefully, Coach Griffin is a head coach soon,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said after that game. “We’ll miss him, but hopefully he gets that opportunity to be a head coach.”

Perhaps that opportunity will be in Philadelphia. 

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