The Cleveland Cavaliers fired head coach Mike Brown on Monday, according to Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Marc J. Spears, just one year after bringing back the coach with the most wins in franchise history for his second tour of duty with the organization.
The team announced Brown's firing in a press release that also confirmed the hiring of David Griffin as Cleveland's general manager. Griffin had previously served as the Cavaliers' assistant GM, and took over the reins of the team after the early-February firing of former GM Chris Grant.
Brown's son, Elijah, tweeted his surprise at the development:
It's a crazy business man
— elijah brown (@_elijahbrown5) May 12, 2014
There aren't many who know that better than his dad, who's found himself jumping on and off the coaching carousel quite a bit these past few seasons.
The Cavaliers re-hired Brown last summer after firing Byron Scott, who had compiled a 64-166 record in three seasons at the helm in Cleveland. At the time, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert praised Brown as a coach who had "done nothing but win in this league" and would "instill a much-needed defensive-first philosophy in our young and talented team." Gilbert sang a different tune on Monday.
“This is a very tough business. It pains all of us here that we needed to make the difficult decision of releasing Mike Brown," Gilbert said in the team's statement. "Mike worked hard over this last season to move our team in the right direction. Although, there was some progress from our finish over the few prior seasons, we believe we need to head in a different direction. We wish Mike and his family nothing but the best.
Brown, 44, piloted the LeBron James-led Cavaliers to a 272-138 record, five playoff appearances and one NBA finals trip between the 2005-06 and 2009-10 seasons, and earned NBA Coach of the Year honors after a league-best 66-16 '08-'09 season. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert jettisoned Brown, though, after a second-round exit in 2009-10, replacing him with Scott. Shortly thereafter, James took his talents to South Beach, the Miami Heat began competing for and winning NBA championships, and the Cavaliers began a tailspin from which they have yet to emerge four years later.
Following his firing, Brown joined the Los Angeles Lakers for the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, receiving a four-year deal to replace the legendary Phil Jackson on the Staples Center sideline. It was something of an awkward fit, and Brown had a rocky first year in L.A., but he led Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and company to a 41-25 record and a Pacific Division title, but the Lakers found themselves overmatched in a second-round series against Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and the ascendant Oklahoma City Thunder, resulting in a five-game exit.
The Lakers reloaded in the summer of 2012, bringing in All-Stars Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to work alongside Bryant, Gasol and Metta World Peace and give Brown veteran stars at every position. That didn't go so well, as the team stumbled to a 1-4 start and Brown was fired after five games before eventually being replaced by Mike D'Antoni. (That didn't go so well, either.)
After spending the balance of the 2012-13 season at home, Brown rejoined the Cavs, tasked with turning a squad with loads of high-lottery talent (No. 1 picks Kyrie Irving and Anthony Bennett, No. 4 picks Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters) into a team capable of improving enough on both ends of the floor to make a postseason push in the Eastern Conference. Instead, the Cavs scuffled throughout the season, with Bennett having one of the worst rookie campaigns of any No. 1 pick in history, a loudly rumored rift between backcourt scorers Irving and Waiters, and multiple roster decisions gone awry — most notably, perhaps, the ill-fated addition of injured center Andrew Bynum — leading to Grant's firing, a 33-49 record and another trip to the lottery.
After the conclusion of the Cavaliers' disappointing season, acting general manager Griffin emphasized the shaky ground on which every member of the Cleveland front office and roster found themselves standing heading into the summer, noting that everyone involved was "under review." Evidently, Griffin's reviews were favorable — “Our ownership group is looking forward to David Griffin leading the basketball side of our business," Gilbert said in the sunnier side of the team's Monday statement — and Brown's were not.
The Cavs say that Brown's assistants remain under contract, but the search for a new head coach will begin immediately. Where Brown himself goes next remains to be seen; if prior precedent offers any indication, a trip to Chick-fil-A might be in the cards.
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