The Cleveland Cavaliers are well on their way toward rehiring former Cavs coach Mike Brown. Because Mike Brown’s previous two NBA head coaching stints worked out exceedingly well, in Cavalier eyes.
Brown coached the Cavs from 2005 to 2010 after coming over from Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs bench. He also coached the Los Angeles Lakers for all of the truncated 2011-12 season and the first couple of weeks of the 2012-13 season. He also has presided over some of the most underachieving playoff teams in recent NBA history, including the 2009 and 2010 Cavaliers, and the 2011 Los Angeles Lakers. As was the case in 2005, Brown will be charged with handling the emerging career of a 21-year old championship-level player, with Kyrie Irving replacing LeBron James as a franchise talent.
Pray for that talent.
Mike Brown is a good man that handles his gig with professionalism and candor. He’s usually the hardest-working guy in the room, noted for his obsession with game tape and appreciation for advanced statistics. His pedigree as a game-tape operator-turned-trusted Coach Pop assistant is spotless, and he has 564 regular and postseason NBA games as a head coach to draw upon for inspiration, and a 2009 Coach of the Year award on his mantle to reflect upon.
He’s also an overreaction. A coach grabbed by a Cavalier front office that is desperately attempting to make up for the embarrassing defensive mistakes that were commonplace during former coach Byron Scott’s tenure. Worse, the cynic in us wonders if this is a preemptive strike in anticipating LeBron James’ potential 2014 free agent turn. James could opt out of his contract during that summer, with Dwyane Wade fading and Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving looking like a fantastic second-in-command, and the Cavaliers have cultivated enough cap space to make a return to Cleveland a possibility during that summer. Even if James is coming off of a third-straight championship, there’s always a chance.
Don’t rule that line of thinking out. This is the team that willingly went into 2002-03 in full tank mode after drafting Dajuan Wagner, dealing Andre Miller, and keeping John Lucas on as coach. This is also the team that also fired Mike Brown in 2010 in a last-ditch attempt to prove to LeBron James that he – and no GM, and no coach – ruled the roost in Cleveland.
[Adrian Wojnarowski: The irrepressible Tom Thibodeau]
Brown is known as a defensive guru, and while he’s mostly held up to that ideal, it’s also important to point out that his Cavalier teams were stocked with defensive-minded pluggers surrounding an ever-improving defensive game-changer in James. Two of Brown’s seasons in Cleveland resulted in mediocre defensive rankings, as did his one full’ish year in Los Angeles, but by and large the man has the opponents’ tendencies already known by heart before he drives into the arena. The guy knows the game, and coaches should be allowed the same amount of chances for a career arc that players are.
It’s still hard to get over Mike Brown’s low points, though.
Brown seemed hapless as the Cavaliers were tossed too-early from the playoffs in 2009 and 2010. His work as a TV analyst during 2010-11 was unremarkable, and he seemed to have no sway over the Lakers during both the team’s odd 2011-12 regular season, the team’s disappointing 4-1 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in last year’s second round, and Los Angeles’ 1-4 start to the 2012-13 regular season. Ramona Shelburne is reporting that Brown and the Cavs didn’t see eye-to-eye on a possible contract extension as the team headed into that infamous 2010 offseason, but a Cavalier franchise that bent over backwards to LeBron James’ whims for years prior to that summer to that would also seem to be the sort of team to dump a GM (former Cavalier boss Danny Ferry) and coach just to see what the Big Free Agent wanted.
It’s true that in the too-fast NBA, all of this feels like ancient history. LeBron’s 2014-styled decision seems a ways away, and the Cavs have plenty to do in anticipation of that. The team needs to nail its many upcoming draft picks. Some massive player development sets have to be put in place for the team’s various young men, and the franchise as a whole at least needs to give off of a hint of the scent of playoff contention in 2013-14 after two disappointing (though, admittedly, rebuilding) seasons.
Brown’s their guy, though? This team couldn’t even wait to see greener leaves on the trees in northern Ohio before making the call?
Following the misguided and embarrassing mess that was the 2010-11 season, the Cavaliers did well to build slowly and embrace long term goals. Shooting for LeBron James in 2014 is the longest of long term long shots, but it’s worth keeping a patient personnel tone and plenty of cap space in place while trying to up the winning percentage and create a home that James wants to be a part of.
Mike Brown won’t affect the team’s cap space, though. And if his history is any indication he won’t do much for this team’s winning percentage, or LeBron James’ interest. And they hired this guy within a week of firing the old coach.
Seems pretty rash, Cleveland. Hopefully you won’t get burned.
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