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Close friends Brown, Clifford had similar journeys
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Brett Brown rarely arrives at a game in which he is not talking about the opposition having one of his close friends on its staff. Yes, he's been working in the game of basketball for quite some time -- three decades in fact.
Friday night, prior to the Sixers' showdown with the Bobcats in Charlotte, Brown sat courtside engaged in conversation with Steve Clifford, the first-year head coach of the Bobcats.
Two men, 52 years of age, in their rookie seasons as NBA head coaches, both directing rebuilding programs. The conversation was not between casual acquaintances -- Brown and Clifford are close friends.
“He worked for my dad eight to 10 years,” Brown said of Clifford. “He lived with my family a year and something. I have known him a long time, and he is a very close family friend.”

Clifford recalls the story of how he got to know Brett's father, Bob Brown, when Clifford was a Division III player at UMaine-Farmington and the elder Brown coached high school ball at South Portland and later became an assistant at Boston University.

“I saw him at clinics and camps a lot," Clifford said of Brown, a legendary New England coach. "Up there, he is bigger then life.”
Clifford speaks the truth of Bob Brown, who is enshrined in the New England Hall of Fame. The elder Brown was known for his success as a long-time high school coach, so a young Clifford saw the legend as a ticket who could help him get where he wanted to be in life.

Clifford wasn’t above begging to make that happen.
“I was a high school coach, and he was coaching at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire,” Clifford explained. “I talked him into letting me come as a volunteer, and he was good enough to not only let me go there but he let me live with him and got me jobs and really got me on my way.
“My goal was not to be a college coach. I thought that I would be a high school coach and a special education teacher because that’s what my dad was and I thought that would be a good life. I knew going with him wasn’t really a risk because he was so well known I figured I would get a better high school job.

“But then I liked the college. I liked recruiting. He helped me a lot and my career just went from there.”
Clifford’s story with Bob Brown rings similar to Brett Brown’s first volunteer position with the San Antonio Spurs. Two smart men -- Clifford and Brown -- knew getting their foot in the door was all they needed. Their work ethic and basketball knowledge would take care of the rest.
And it has.
“It is an interesting situation we both find ourselves in at this stage in our lives. To be able to coach NBA teams and be able to run into each other is a good thing,” Brown said. “I am proud of him. He is a hell of a coach. He’s a good person and he has put in his dues to get to this level.”
Clifford says the same about Brown. Two good men at the pinnacle of their professional careers are still grounded in the knowledge that relationships are what matter.