Brett Brown did a smart thing in holding out for a 4-year guaranteed contract from the Philadelphia 76ers, because as the team's new head coach, it's rather unlikely he'll survive the term. History suggests that coaches of really bad teams don't last long, even when losing is expected or a part of the master plan. This way, at least he'll get paid as if he did survive.
The Sixers are going to be awful. Rookies Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel are expected to figure heavily. Philadelphia went shopping for free agents right around August 1. The team went 34-48 with Jrue Holiday. Now, he's gone, and his minutes will largely go to a rookie who looked pretty rough around the edges at Summer League. Chances are that Brown will be asked to feature youth heavily; there's a chance the Sixers' remaining veterans (Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner) could be jettisoned by the deadline for more picks. And of course, the Sixers' fate is by design: a big part of trading Holiday was to ensure a high pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, in addition to picking up Noel and a Pelicans pick that should end up in the teens.
That's a tricky situation to walk into for a first-time NBA head coach like Brown. His agent is smart and pushed for four years guaranteed, which likely means something like $8 million overall. That's big money for Brown; that's basically nothing for the Sixers. But the mere fact that the team is scheduled to pay Brown through 2016-17 hardly means that the team will be paying him to coach the team that long. If history is any indication, the team will cut Brown after a couple of sure-to-be rough seasons and eat the remaining salary as a cost of doing business.
Last year, three teams won fewer than 25 games. Two of them -- the Cavaliers and Bobcats -- fired their coaches. Byron Scott made it to three years with Cleveland; Mike Dunlap lasted one with Charlotte. (He came in billed as a developmental guy, much like Brown.) Jacque Vaughn survived his first ugly season in Orlando; we'll see if he makes three more.
In 2011-12, the Bobcats nuked Paul Silas after a 7-59 season. Five teams won fewer than 25 games in 2010-11. Only two of those teams' coaches survived the following season: Scott (hacked since then) and Avery Johnson (who lasted into the 2012-13 season). Since 2003, 33 teams have finished with a winning percentage under .300 (the equivalent of less than 25 wins). Of those teams, only 4 coaches have survived more than two additional seasons after the low points: Doc Rivers, Byron Scott (with New Orleans), Mike Woodson and Nate McMillan. The odds are just stacked against coaches who are paid to rack up losses.
The worse news for Brown is that only some of those assigned janitorial duty on the NBA's Titanics work again as head coaches. In addition to two of the four coaches mentioned above (Rivers and Woodson), only Randy Wittmann and Vaughn are current NBA head coaches. (I'm not counting coaches who took over midseason and led their teams to a better than .300 record under their watch. Kevin McHale, Scott Skiles and Scott Brooks qualify under that heading.)
What works in Brown's favor is that his boss, Philly GM Sam Hinkie, is very different from the usual NBA general manager. That may or may not be good in the end, but it's less likely that Hinkie will cow to NBA norms, one of which is "fire the head coach if your team sucks." The other item that is different in Brown's case is that he has a long history as an assistant at the pro level, unlike say Dunlap, who jumped from the Big East to the Southeast Division last year. (Brown also has head coaching experience in international competition.)
But in the end, despite the money being guaranteed, a job will be anything but for Brown given the likelihood of tons of losses arriving in a couple of months.