Brett Brown watched from the San Antonio bench as an assistant coach while the Miami Heat closed out the Spurs in seven games to win their second straight NBA title in June.
Miami looked every bit as good in its season opener as Brown remembers, and he'll likely have an even tougher challenge trying to slow down the visiting Heat on Wednesday night as he begins his first head coaching gig with a Philadelphia 76ers team undergoing a major rebuild.
Brown spent six seasons as an assistant to Gregg Popovich before signing a four-year deal to coach Philadelphia this offseason. He likely won't be experiencing as many victories as in previous years with a roster devoid of any superstar talent.
After a disappointing 34-48 campaign, the 76ers revamped their leadership by parting ways with coach Doug Collins and firing general manager Tony DiLeo. President Rod Thorn left for a front-office job with the league.
New GM Sam Hinkie then traded leading scorer Jrue Holiday while Andrew Bynum, who was injured all of last season and never played a game for Philadelphia, signed with Cleveland.
Holiday was traded on draft night for No. 6 overall pick Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-rounder, though there has been talk of Noel sitting out the entire season while he recovers from a torn left ACL. The 76ers then drafted point guard Michael Carter-Williams with the No. 11 pick.
''When you're looking to rebuild, and you're not on the side of the win column as much as you'd like to be, it's got to be done out of respect, out of work ethic, a competitiveness, a toughness,'' Brown said. ''I feel like we're not skipping steps, we're not cheating the system, we're going about it like we're building something. That's why they hired me. That's what I intend on trying to do.''
Thaddeus Young is the leading returning scorer after averaging 14.8 points last season, and Evan Turner also is back after scoring 13.3 points per game. Turner, in the last year of his rookie contract, doesn't plan on accepting being part of a losing team.
''No matter how you put it, losers sit there and say ... we're going to lose," Turner said. "I'm not a loser.''
The Sixers, though, haven't been on the winning end of recent meetings with Miami, dropping nine straight and 19 of the last 20 matchups, including the postseason.
Brown has his own experience coming up short against the Heat.
"Everyone knows the last time I saw them (it) was a huge disappointment," Brown said. "The hangover from all that still exists a little bit.
"There's an excitement to start the year, and it just so happens to be against the best team in basketball. Any time you can get a true benchmark of where you want to be as an individual or as a team, then it's an honest reflection to aspire to get to where we want to go."
The Heat picked up right where they left off last season, beating Chicago 107-95 on Tuesday after receiving their championship rings in a pregame ceremony.
''You never know what to expect when you're trying to keep the main thing the main thing, and that's the game,'' coach Erik Spoelstra said. ''But you can't deny the emotions and what a special moment it was for everybody in the organization because we know how difficult that was and how harrowing that was last season."
Seven players scored in double figures for Miami including LeBron James, who finished with 17 points, six rebounds and eight assists.
''It's a team game,'' James said. ''That's what this team is put together for.''
James had 27 points with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade both sitting out of Miami's 106-87 win over Philadelphia in the most recent meeting April 6.