Why Fox, Brown’s special relationship key to Kings’ success originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay area
SACRAMENTO — De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis are magic on the court together. Fox reuniting with his former University of Kentucky teammate Malik Monk in Sacramento this season has sparked a Band-Aid-led spunk back in the 916 that fans cannot get enough of.
But there’s one duo that isn’t talked about nearly enough: De’Aaron Fox and Mike Brown.
When Brown arrived in Sacramento this summer as the new head coach of the Kings, his bond with Fox almost was almost. They worked together all offseason with the same, itching goal in mind.
Get to the postseason.
It’s something Fox is all too familiar with over the course of his NBA career but something almost foreign to Brown. But Brown was brought to Sacramento for a reason, and the two entered the 2022-23 NBA season ready to snap the Kings’ dreadful 16-year playoff drought.
Fox did his part on the floor, averaging 30.5 points per game on 59.0 percent shooting from the field and nearly 42.3 percent from deep, along with 5.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists in Sacramento’s first four games of the season.
Despite Fox’s efforts, the Kings remained winless in their first four contests of the season.
That’s where Brown comes in. It did n’t matter how many points Fox finished with after a game or how pleasing his numbers were on a stat sheet, Brown still was not satisfied.
Fast-forward to the present day, Dec. 19, two months into the NBA season, and nothing has changed. Except for the Kings managing to turn things around and stand at a 16-13 record, good for sixth in the Western Conference.
“In the beginning of the year, when we were really trying to lay a foundation on both sides of the floor, especially defensively, I was probably on him more than anybody else,” Brown told reporters before the Kings hosted the Charlottes Hornets on Monday . “Not just privately, in front of the team. I was on him. I was on him during timeouts. I took him out of a game after he made a couple of mistakes a couple of times.”
Brown is in awe of how well Fox has received his coaching, and how he actually listens and continues to grow.
He added that it’s not common for star athletes to always be willing to listen, especially after reaching Fox’s level of stardom. It even reminded coach Brown of a Hall of Fame coach-player duo.
“To have a superstar allow you to coach him that way in today’s game is special,” Brown continued. “It shows a tremendous amount of leadership. That type of leadership, man, it can set the tone for greatness. Not just for that individual but for the team. I knew he had a hell of a chance to be a great leader.
“It really reminded me of [Gregg Popovich] back in the day coaching Tim [Duncan], and Tim allowing him to be coached a certain way. That’s why that franchise [San Antonio Spurs] and those players are great. Because they laid a foundation of leadership in that locker room that wasn’t just on Pop.”
Popovich and Duncan won five championships together with the Spurs. It’s inspiring to see what a great coach and player, neither letting ego get in the way, can accomplish together and how that can compare to the future of Brown and Fox.
After Monday’s game, a disappointing 125-119 loss to the Hornets, Fox talked about why it’s been so easy for him to listen and learn from a coach like Brown.
“For Mike specifically, he’s been there, done that. There’s nothing that he hasn’t done in the league,” Fox said. “He’s been on numerous championship teams, been to the Finals as a head coach, he could probably count on one hand how many times he was on the coaching staff and they did n’t go to the playoffs so he’s done everything.
“He’s coached LeBron [James]Tim Duncan, Manu [Ginóbili]Klay [Thompson]Steph [Curry], [Kevin Durant], the list goes on. For me, just wanting to be in that category, I have a lot to learn and I’ve always been open ears. Whatever the coach says, that’s what I do. Whatever the coach asks me to do, that’s what I do. Ive always been that way.
That mindset is sure to take the young star far. He’s on the verge of becoming an NBA All-Star for the first time in his career.
Fox dropped a team-high and game-high 37 points on 56 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent from behind the arc in the Kings’ 125-119 loss to the Charlotte Hornets at Golden 1 Center on Monday night.
And on the night before his 25th birthday, he surely would have liked to walk away with a win, but perhaps Brown’s thoughtful present might suffice.
“Not yet,” Brown said in response to whether he’s gotten Fox a birthday present. “I’ma give him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.”
And that right there perfectly displays the fun, loving yet competitive dynamic the two have quickly created together. And it’s just beginning.