PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Brett Brown’s thick, New England accent wouldn’t have fit well in Philadelphia when the 76ers and Dr. J were one of the NBA’s elite teams, consistently battling Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics for Eastern Conference titles in the early 1980s.

Those days are long over. The Sixers haven’t won it all since Julius Erving and Moses Malone led them to a championship 30 years. So, they’re turning to Brown to build them into a contender again.

“To be here is surreal. I can still see Doc and George McGinnis and trying to take their photos (as a kid),” Brown said after he was hired to replace Doug Collins.

The deal was completed earlier in the week, and Brown was officially introduced as the 24th head coach in franchise history on Wednesday. Brown is the eighth coach to lead the Sixers since Larry Brown left in 2003.

Collins resigned in April after the Sixers went 34-48, a year after advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals. He led the Sixers to the playoffs his first two seasons and left with one year remaining on his original four-year deal.

“We went through an exhaustive search to find the right head coach for our organization, one who had a passion for developing talent, a strong work ethic to help create the kind of culture we hope for, and a desire to continually improve,” general manager Sam Hinkie said. “Brett has all of that. He also has a wealth of experience as a head coach and a championship pedigree, to boot. We are delighted to welcome him as our coach, and I am invigorated for the two of us to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

The 1979 graduate of South Portland High School has years of head coaching experience in Australia and has earned four NBA championship rings as an assistant with San Antonio. He came within 20 seconds of winning a fifth before Miami staged an improbable comeback in Game 6 of the finals and defeated the Spurs in a seven-game series.

After graduating from South Portland High, Brown played point guard at Boston University, where he was named MVP as a sophomore and then captain as a junior and a senior. He remains third on the school’s all-time list for assist-to-turnover ratio (2.19) and is sixth in career assists (404) and ninth in steals (141).

After leading Boston University to the 1983 NCAA tournament — the Terriers’ first since 1959 — Brown became a graduate assistant to John Kuester, after Pitino left to become an assistant coach for the Knicks.

In 1984, Brown took a sales job in Boston with AT&T and saved enough money to embark on a backpacking adventure in 1987 to New Zealand, Fiji and Australia. The trip changed his life. He met the woman who would become his wife (Anna) and mother to their three children (Julia, Lauren and Sam). A cold call to a legendary Australian basketball coach, Lindsay Gaze (father of Andrew Gaze, the former Seton Hall and NBA player who carried the Australian flag at the Sydney Olympics), led to a coaching position, and Brown wound up living in Australia.

He spent four years as an assistant to Gaze and 14 as a head coach in the Australian National Basketball League, earning Coach of the Year honors in 1994, when his Melbourne Giants won the league title. He spent eight years as an assistant with the Australian National Team, for both the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, and became Australia’s head coach in 2009 for the London Games last summer.

Brown played a key role in helping Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker develop into All-Stars with the Spurs.

“If I was going to leave a situation like San Antonio, it better be for the right one,” Brown said. “It’s a privilege to be here.”

Brown inherits a team in total rebuilding mode. Hinkie, who was hired away from Houston, traded All-Star guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans on draft night for the rights to Kentucky center Nerlens Noel. Hinkie also drafted Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams with the 11th overall pick in the first round.

Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes are Philadelphia’s main holdovers, giving Brown some talent to develop.

“I’ve always been a fan of Thaddeus. I see that potential in Evan. You pay attention to Spencer,” Brown said. “The pieces that are in place are workable pieces. I look forward to working with them.”

Asked if he sees any star players on the roster, Brown said: “I don’t know enough about the players to give an accurate answer.”

A year ago, the Sixers were coming off a first-round upset of top-seeded Chicago and were counting on going further in the playoffs after the acquisition of former All-Star center Andrew Bynum. But things unraveled quickly, and Bynum never played a game in a Sixers uniform because of knee problems.

Brown is used to a winning program at San Antonio, so he’s not familiar with starting from the bottom. But the Sixers realize it’s not an overnight process and gave him a four-year contract to turn things around.

“You get excited to be a part of the rebuild,” Brown said. “We all know the pain of the rebuild is real. There needs to be patience. I have not been a part of a rebuild since I was in the NBA. The rebuild has to be keeping the locker room together.”

What type of offense will the Sixers have under Brown? That depends on the players and their ability, though Brown has his preference.

“We want to go. We want to get out in the open court, and we want to run,” he said. “It’s easy to say, but it’s hard to run for 82 games. You have to have a tremendous fitness base.”

Brown expects his coaching staff in place by Sept. 1. It doesn’t appear he has to be concerned with owner Josh Harris moving the team.

There had been speculation that Harris may consider taking the team out of Philadelphia after his purchase of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils is complete. But Hinkie dismissed that idea.

“Josh Harris is more committed than ever to owning the Sixers, the fans of Philadelphia and to keeping the Sixers here forever,” Hinkie said.