Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown on Thursday discussed his longtime connection to the family of Ben Simmons, the 6-foot-8 LSU power forward who could end up being selected by the Sixers with the No. 1 pick in June's NBA draft.
In Chad Ford's latest mock draft, the 76ers are projected to choose Simmons, in part because of Brown's connection to Simmons' family, about which little has been known. On ESPN's TrueHoop podcast Thursday, Brown told the story of how he met Ben's father, David Simmons, in Australia nearly 30 years ago.
Brown, an American, became an assistant coach under Hall of Famer Lindsay Gaze with the Melbourne Tigers in 1988.
"Each of the teams in Australia were allowed to have two American imports," Brown said. "And one of the American imports we had was a player named David Simmons, from Harlem, New York -- who is Ben Simmons' father. The cheerleader -- you can't make this stuff up -- the cheerleader that was the head cheerleader of that team ended up marrying David Simmons, our import, who I coached for five years with Lindsay Gaze, and had Ben Simmons, their son."
David Simmons joined the Melbourne Tigers in 1989. His No. 25 was later retired by the Tigers. David Simmons and his wife, Julie, also have a daughter, Olivia.
"The Ben Simmons connection, with his family and myself is a good story, I suppose," said Brown, who added that he has maintained contact with the family through the years. "I was with David and Julie, his wife, in Orlando. They visited me when we played an NBA game two years ago. I saw Ben Simmons three years ago when I was coaching the Australian Olympic team. And you know, step by step. You have sporadic contact, but very serious contact many years ago. And incredibly coincidental that we find ourselves in this situation that we're in now.
"You know, what's funny is the rules don't permit me to stay in contact with the family -- the NBA rules."
NBA rules prohibit contact between NBA team personnel and draft-eligible players who have not yet declared for the draft. Brown said he "played [phone] tag with David Simmons for a while and explained, 'Hey, we have to go underground for a while.'"
Brown also discussed Duke 6-8 forward Brandon Ingram, who is also expected to be selected high in the draft, along with other prospects in the interview.
He said he and general manager Bryan Colangelo will be traveling to Turkey in the first week of June to meet 2014 lottery pick Dario Saric. Like Simmons, Saric is a 6-10 power forward noted for his ability to handle the ball. Brown called them "really big type of 'do-alls,' which I guess you can't have enough of."
Brown said of Ingram: "He's obviously very thin now, but his length, his disposition -- he was a great interview in Chicago [at the draft combine]. Just a soft-spoken, good man. You could tell somebody raised him well. I think from a basketball perspective, he's probably easier to figure out because I think he has a defined position. He's a 3 man, maybe a 2. Whereas somebody like Ben Simmons, I think he can go right across the board. He can play multiple positions. Brandon's single identifiable elite NBA skill I assume is going to be his ability to catch and shoot it with that length, and really stretch the floor. As he gets older, weight will come, as we all witnessed with Kevin Durant, and I can see why people make that analogy."
Brown also spoke highly of Providence's Kris Dunn, saying the 6-4 point guard "just jumps out right from the get go" as a defender. Brown also said, "I don't see his offensive challenge being as steep as other people may."
Brown did not deny that the team's decision comes down to Simmons and Ingram, but added: "The mock drafts, where they say it's Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, I get why. But tell you what: There's some other stuff going on behind them you better pay attention to."