Hubie Brown on changing losing cultures like the Sacramento Kings

Hubie Brown calls an ESPN broadcasted game with Dan Shulman. (Photo: ESPN)

Hubie Brown is regarded as one of the NBA’s wisest voices.  With more than three decades of experience as a coach and television analyst, Brown has seen it all at the professional level.  In Memphis, his last stop as an NBA coach, Brown helped transform the Grizzlies from a perennial cellar dweller into a postseason contender.

With new ownership on the way, the Sacramento Kings will soon be in a similar position that Memphis was in at the start of Brown’s tenure.  The basketball hall of famer thinks there’s hope for a turnaround based on the roster the Kings have in place.

“Look, they have a lot of pieces there in Sacramento,” Brown said in an ESPN conference call with media yesterday afternoon.  “You have a lot of talent and you also have a lot of depth of quite a few young players.”

The status of the Kings’ front office and coaching staff remains a questionmark.  There is widespread belief that new owners will clean house in an effort to reshape the franchise.

Whether this team is coached by Keith Smart or someone new next year, Brown believes that a coaching staff must know that they’ll have a limited amount of time on their side.

“Now, you can’t come in here and say in professional sports today, I need four or five years to turn this program around,” Brown said.  “Well, no one is going to wait four or five years.  You have got to be able to come in here and say, look at this talent and then hope that you get a free agent or two and make a good draft pick because of where you’re going to be picking because of the bad record.”

Roster fit is an issue that must be addressed under the Kings’ new ownership.  They have assembled a collection of players, who individually are very talented.  But, this group hasn’t figured out how to play together.

Brown thinks another step in turning around the franchise will be evaluating and assessing who should stay and who should go.

“See, that always happens when you take over bad teams,” Brown said.  “Some guys, who might be cherished by upper management or ownership or people in the city, have got to get off the train because style of play, attitude, work habits, off‑court problems.  These things prevent them from reaching their potential for the style that you’re bringing in.”

Changing the culture of a franchise requires establishing accountability, something the Kings have struggled to do under the Maloofs.  When DeMarcus Cousins was suspended for inappropriately lashing out at Smart in a game last December, his punishment was short-lived.  Ownership intervened on behalf of Cousins, undermining the authority of their front office and coaching staff to discipline the 22-year-old center.

Holding players responsible for their growth will be a major factor in the Kings’ transformation either in Sacramento or Seattle.

‘It’s not an easy thing to do,” Brown said.  “You just have to get lucky that you can pick the right staff to come in and do that.”

Additional quotes from Brown’s conference call with media yesterday

Brown on the organizational structure that must be in place for coaches taking over bad teams.

…when you take over a bad situation, and that coach comes in, it’s no player’s team because the team is a losing team.  It’s the coach’s team and it’s the ownership’s team and you represent a city so the coaching staff takes over a bad situation and has got to come in with total discipline and then an offense and defense that will work with the people.

Brown on the culture of successful franchises.

When you have winning teams, everyone wants their potential reached.  They want to be taught.  They want to be able to add new moves offensively every single year.  They do not want to come in and think that they have reached their fullest potential.  They want to be taught, and that comes by accountability – everybody else buying in.

Brown on teams engaged in coaching searches.  He believes that a coach’s style has to fit the personnel that is in place.

Too many times, coaches are picked to come to a team and it’s the worst style of play for the current players that are there under contract, especially the main three guys.  The main three guys – can they get the type of shots that they are accustomed to in the areas that they shoot a high percentage?  And also, the style of play that they want to play?

So when you look at it, you want the resumé, you want the potential if the guy doesn’t have a resumé if you’re taking an assistant, but the style of play that they are going to bring at both ends of the floor is critical because of my talent base.

Because if you bring in the opposite, you’re just wasting time because unfortunately it’s not going to work, and we have seen this time and time again with a lot of teams.  Because we know, we turn over here like eight or nine coaches almost every year now.  And so when that happens, I think management has got to look at this now and say, does the glove fit?  And that’s the most important thing in my opinion.

You can listen to Brown’s discussion on coaching searches and changing the cultures of losing teams like the Kings in the audio file below.


Can’t see the audio player? Listen here.


Jonathan Santiago
Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.

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