Sacramento Republic FC Head Coach Mark Briggs and Sacramento Kings Head Coach Mike Brown have become friends in recent months, and have led their clubs to major successes in the past 12 months.
It began under the gaze of Sacramento’s most distinctive landmark.
Just four days after the biggest game in Sacramento Republic FC’s history at the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, the city came together for its annual tradition of the Tower Bridge Dinner.
Hundreds of guests, local dignitaries and celebrities convened for a five-course meal created by top regional chefs using exclusively local produce in the open-air setting of Tower Bridge.
Among them were Republic FC Head Coach Mark Briggs and Sacramento Kings Head Coach Mike Brown.
And, after being introduced, a friendship was born.
“We kind of hit it off,” said Briggs. “Then we exchanged numbers, exchanged messages, had a few calls.
“We’re both people that want to learn and want to get better at our trade. Seeing somebody of his caliber work and seeing somebody with the experience he had, I’d be a fool not to try and lean into his knowledge.”
The messages and calls turned into invitations to visit Kings practice for Briggs, where he got to observe Brown and his staff at work in creating one of the stories of the current National Basketball Association seasons. After 17 years, the Kings not only returned to the postseason, but claimed the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, a testament to the cohesiveness Brown’s staff and players have built over the course of his first year with the team.
The passion both men have for their respective sports, and the parallels they now find between them, has also been enjoyable for Briggs to experience.
“You can see how he has his staff work,” said Briggs. “You can see how he communicates with players, communicates with staff, the standards he holds. There’s a lot of similarities, which is where we actually had one conversation where we both kind of got passionate about defending. He spoke about defending the paint, protecting the paint, and certain things that he was talking about in that regard, and obviously I’m talking about defending the goal and protecting the middle of the box.
“There's a lot of similarities that we both got kind of passionate about whilst we’re talking about our own individual sports. There’s a lot of cross-pathways, so to speak.”
The success of the Kings and Republic FC has built a sporting moment in Sacramento as a whole. Both clubs see crossover in their respective fanbases, and there are those like Briggs and longtime Republic FC icon Rodrigo Lopez who were on hand for the Kings’ Game 2 against the Golden State Warriors last week at the Golden 1 Center.
For Republic FC midfielder Matt LaGrassa, who grew up supporting the Kings in their last heyday when players like Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic were bringing fans to their feet at Arco Arena, it’s been a tremendous throwback.
“It’s honestly been incredible, the last 12 months or so for the city,” said LaGrassa. “[We can be] kind of overlooked a lot of times in the sports market industry, and for us to have the success we did last year and now the Kings to be doing what they’re doing after missing the playoffs for so long, it’s been really fun to watch.”
“As I was a kid, 5, 6, 7, 8 years old, I was at Arco Arena all the time, and I knew what this city was capable of in terms of what they could do for us as fans, and so it’s been really, really great to watch the city be reignited.”
Having grown up a Sacramento Kings fan, local standout Matt LaGrassa is embracing the resurgence of the city's sporting fortunes as part of Republic FC's squad. | Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC
Republic FC has been getting in on the hoops fun on its social channels as well, with new forward Russell Cicerone’s hops being shown off on TikTok.
When it comes to having some actual game, the consensus between LaGrassa, Cicerone and Jack Gurr was defender Shane Wiedt would probably be the first person selected if the squad picked up for a battle on the blacktop.
Opinion was more varied as to which member of the Kings they’d like to see suit up for Republic FC in a game, with Domantas Sabonis, De’Aaron Fox and Matthew Dellavedova’s names all coming up.
Briggs went in a different direction – “I need a strong center forward, so that includes everybody on their roster, but I’m going to go with Malik Monk,” he said – but like his players the vibe he feels around the city currently is reminiscent of how Sacramento embraced Republic FC during its Open Cup run, and now its undefeated start to the 2023 season.
“The whole energy when you’re in and around the stadium was just phenomenal,” said Briggs. “You can just feel it in the air, the people are buzzing. There’s an excitement, there’s a buzz that we felt last year with our Open Cup run, and now the Kings are experiencing it. There’s just such a great buzz around the city with everybody involved.”
Republic FC will continue its Open Cup journey on Wednesday night as it plays host to regional USL Championship rival Oakland Roots SC at Heart Health Park as the side dreams of another deep run in the tournament.
At the same time, the Kings will square off across town with the Golden State Warriors aiming to continue what has been a dream season under Brown’s direction. Recently named the NBA Coach of the Year, Brown is planning to visit Briggs and his team during the summer after the Kings’ campaign concludes.
As the city comes together to try and push both clubs to greater heights, Briggs is proud of his new friend’s accomplishment and where their friendship will take them.
“We both have shared interests and we’re both in a position that not many other people can relate to,” said Briggs. “The pressures and the experiences and all the things that go along with being the head coach of a sporting organization. Being able to communicate with somebody on a whole new level – let’s be honest, the NBA and USL are two completely different universes – but some of the things we both face are very similar, just on different scales. So, being able to speak to somebody and be able to see somebody who's accomplished so much be so humble, and so down to earth and normal is really refreshing.”