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Life after LeBron: Brown eyes return

Marc J. Spears
Yahoo Sports
Life after LeBron: Brown eyes return
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Mike Brown coached LeBron James for five years before he was fired at the end of last season

Five months after the Cleveland Cavaliers fired him as LeBron James'(notes) coach following a disappointing defeat to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Mike Brown has found a new job.

He's coaching middle school football.

Brown is an assistant coach for the Westlake Lee Burneson Middle School team that his 13-year-old son, Cameron, plays on in Ohio. After being fired by the Cavs, Brown is using this season to spend more time with his wife and two teenage sons. He didn't pursue opportunities during the summer to return to the NBA as a head coach and turned down an offer to serve as an assistant at St. Mary's College in California.

"I'm a glorified equipment guy who gets to chest bump and high-five the players," Brown said. "The kids still call me coach."

Yet as much fun as Brown is having with his family, he hopes to return to the NBA next season.

"If the opportunity presents itself, I'd love to be back coaching," he said. "The fire to coach is burning, but I also believe in family first. … I wanted to take this opportunity to reconnect with my kids, my wife."

Brown coached the Cavaliers from 2005-10, taking them to the NBA Finals in 2007, when they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs. While the Cavaliers had the NBA's best regular-season record the past two seasons, they underachieved in the playoffs, failing to reach the Finals each time. Brown was let go on May 25, leaving with the franchise's highest winning percentage after going 232-178 in his five seasons.

The Cavs are paying Brown the $4.5 million he was due this season over the next six years.

[Related: LeBron's "atrocious" debut with Miami]

While Brown hadn't talked publicly about his firing until this week, he said he isn't bitter toward the Cavs.

"I understand the business," Brown said. "[Cavaliers owner] Dan Gilbert took a chance on me five years ago with little coaching experience and not being a former player. That opportunity doesn't happen a lot. It was his team. He had to do what he thought was best for the organization.

"What I would have preferred is for me and [James] to get after it one more year. I thought we were close. At the end of the day, it's a business and that was a change they were entitled to make."

While it was speculated James played a role in Brown's firing, Brown doesn't believe that to be true. Brown said the two exchanged pleasantries via text message in late June, and he described their relationship as "fine."

"There wasn't anything negative between him and me," Brown said. "There was nothing between him and me. We had a player-coach relationship. That's it. Situations like that where you are out early in the playoffs are always hard. There were a lot of ups and downs, strains.

"I had a great time coaching him. I felt like one of the luckiest coaches in the world. … Coaching LeBron was unique in itself. If he's not the best, he is one of the best to ever play the game."

Brown said he didn't watch James announce he was leaving for the Miami Heat during his much-criticized nationally televised special. While admitting he was a "little surprised" about the decision, Brown said he had no problem with James choosing to play for the Heat. He just wishes James would have delivered the news to Cleveland fans with a little more grace.

"I feel for the fans in Cleveland," Brown said. "They are so emotionally attached. When anything happens, it's a big punch in the gut. They take it hard."

So how good does Brown think the Heat will be with James playing alongside Dwyane Wade(notes) and Chris Bosh(notes)?

"Obviously, when you have that kind of talent you have a chance to win it," Brown said. "They'll be really good, but there will be questions on both ends of the floor. It takes time to jell. It will take time for coach [Erik] Spoelstra to figure out the right combinations. At the end of the day, they've got to knock down shots. If I was coaching against them, I would zone them."

Brown now coaches only his youngest son. He's also attending the basketball games of his older son, Elijah, who is a sophomore guard on the Lakewood St. Edward's High School team. Brown joined Elijah on unofficial visits to the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University. Brown also is working part-time as an analyst with NBA TV.

As much as he's enjoyed the time with his family, Brown knows he'll eventually need to return to work. Depending on what jobs present themselves – and whether there's a lockout – that could come next season.

"I'd love to coach again," Brown said. "I miss being on the sidelines."


Class extensions

Kevin Durant(notes) and Joakim Noah(notes) are the only members of the 2007 draft class who have received contract extensions. Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford(notes) could also receive an extension before Monday's deadline, but it looks like everyone else will have to wait until after the season – and possibly after a lockout – to sign new deals.

Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden(notes), the No. 1 pick in 2007, will not receive an extension before the deadline because the team wants to better assess his health this season before committing a big contract to him. All players who don't sign extensions before Monday's deadline will become restricted free agents after the season, allowing their respective teams to match any offer they receive.

The Detroit Pistons don't plan to sign guard Rodney Stuckey(notes) to an extension before Monday, citing the franchise's ongoing sale. Considering Stuckey averaged 16.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists last season, his agent Steve Banks is confident he'll find a deal for his client next summer, whether it's in Detroit or somewhere else.

"Bitter? Upset? No," Banks said. "He understands it's a business. They're looking for the best deal for the Pistons, not Stuckey. What he will do is play his ass off this season."


New scoring champ?

Told Wednesday night that Golden State Warriors guard Monta Ellis(notes) had already amassed 27 points against the Houston Rockets by halftime, Denver Nuggets forward Al Harrington(notes) made a somewhat bold proclamation:

"Let me go on record as saying that Monta Ellis is going to lead the NBA in scoring."

Ellis performance was overshadowed even in the Bay Area because the San Francisco Giants were opening the World Series that same night. He finished with 46 points while making 18 of 24 shots and nine of 11 free throws in the Warriors' 132-128 win. That tied the career high he set against the Dallas Mavericks last season.

Harrington, a former Warrior, thinks Ellis' scoring will improve because new coach Keith Smart will give him more freedom than his predecessor, Don Nelson, did. Ellis averaged 25.2 points under Nelson last season and 27 points in 10 games that Smart coached. Thunder forward Kevin Durant averaged an NBA-best 30.1 points a game last season.

Rick Barry was the last Warriors player to lead the NBA in scoring when he averaged 35.6 points in the 1966-67 season.


Tip-ins

A league source says Portland Trail Blazers guard Rudy Fernandez(notes) has filed a grievance with the league after he was fined $50,000 for comments made on his behalf about him seeking a trade. European agent Gerard Darnes told a Portland radio station on Oct. 6 that Fernandez's hopes to be released from his contract and return to Spain. Andy Miller is Fernandez's official NBA agent and Darnes also isn't registered as Fernandez's European agent. …Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin(notes) said he should know when he'll return to the court after meeting with noted orthopedic specialist Richard Steadman in Vail, Colo., after Thanksgiving weekend. Martin's basketball activity has been limited to shooting free throws. He expects to be back before the All-Star break. …Utah Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said the team is being cautious with the return of center Mehmet Okur(notes), who tore his left Achilles tendon in last season's playoffs. O'Connor said he remains uncertain when Okur will resume playing. …An NBA source said the Warriors' new ownership group is expected to be officially approved next week. …Halloween marks the 60th anniversary of Washington's Earl Lloyd becoming the first African-American to play in an NBA game. Three black players joined the NBA during the 1950-51 season in Lloyd, the late Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton of New York and the late Chuck Cooper of Boston. Lloyd, a Hall of Famer, was the first to play because of a scheduling quirk when he suited up for a game in Syracuse.