When the original announcement hit Twitter, that David Griffin was to inherit the reins of my favorite sports franchise from Chris Grant, I surprisingly thought very little of it. I, like most Cavs fans, had heard very few mentions of him previously and my first inclination was that he’d just be keeping the General Manager position warm for whomever Dan Gilbert selected to steer the ship full time in the summer. The firing of Grant itself seemed like an impulsive maneuver from a fed up owner who’d just witnessed perhaps his team’s most embarrassing loss of the year. I imagine Gilbert had to hold someone accountable for the mess and Grant was the most convenient victim for this disastrous season as his contract is not nearly as long as Mike Brown’s and he’s been directing the team much longer.
As such, Griffin never felt to me like he was part of the long term plan when originally installed. He would simply fill the vacancy temporarily, nothing more. After some digging though, I’m not quite sure.
Hard to Get
First, let me be clear: David Griffin does not need Dan Gilbert or the Cleveland Cavaliers’ charity. He would have been an NBA GM someday even had Grant not been canned. Hell, he could have been one already. He was Steve Kerr’s right hand in Phoenix during Kerr’s General Manager tenure and declined to interview for the vacancy left by Kerr’s resignation. Griffin started working for the Phoenix Suns organization in media relations as an intern in 1993. He was with the organization for 18 years working his way up to Vice President of Basketball Operations. There’s a good chance he was going to be offered the position, but for whatever reason he declined to even be considered. He later was offered and subsequently turned down the opportunity to become the Denver Nuggets’ General Manager back in 2010. Why? Supposedly because the job didn’t pay well enough. According to an ESPN LA report Griffin pulled himself out of consideration for the Los Angeles Clipper’s General Manager spot in 2012.
Griffin had preliminary conversations with Clippers officials at the pre-draft camp in Chicago a couple weeks ago but “feels it’s not the right move for his career right now,” the source said.
He’s been playing hard to get with NBA franchises for the past four years. This isn’t a once in a lifetime opportunity for the man. If the Cavaliers do poorly the rest of the season under his management no future prospective NBA employer is going to hold it against him. He’ll be just fine whether Gilbert decides to keep him long term or not.
I do think Griffin wants this job though. Cleveland was his first stop upon leaving the organization that raised him, Phoenix. He made sure to point out during his first presser as General Manager that all the tools, facilities, and funds needed to succeed are made available to those employed by the Cavs organization. He’s stayed here despite offers of more authority, and probably pay, elsewhere. The ownership he’s working for has shown it will move into the luxury tax if needed. The Cavs in spite of their struggles still have plenty of cap flexibility, draft picks, and young talent going forward. Griffin alleged that Gilbert has given him full powers to do the job of a GM. If true, that tells me he definitely has a shot to stay. Giving him power over personnel decisions to Griffin, especially considering the looming trade deadline, screams of Gilbert having faith in the man. Perhaps, the fact that such a competent man was waiting in the wings made the decision to remove Grant easier for Gilbert.
Should we be scared?
So, Gilbert thinks Griffin is capable, but do I? No comment? It’s hard to garner too much about these front office types. If you ask me who’s a better quarterback prospect between Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater, I can spend a day on YouTube watching every collegiate throw each of them has ever made. By the end of it I’d actually have a decently reasoned opinion on the matter. With a guy like David Griffin all I can do is google his name in conjunction with phrases like “suns”, “interviews”, “cavs”, “drafts”, and more and pray someone somewhere decided to give the guy an in depth interview. The best I could find was this. He’s not even the most popular David Griffin! DavidGriffin.com is devoted to a real estate company by the same name. His Twitter account, @dg_riff, has only 454 followers and I’m pretty sure that is up by at least 150 from yesterday. So to even pretend to be capable of predicting what type of job he’ll do as Cavs GM would be a farce. I will say plenty of guys rise up through organizations and are touted publicly as “promising” only to fail when given the chance to run a team.1
His record to the public starts now and fans/media will judge him by what he does now that he’s at the top spot and the buck stops with him. Griffin navigated a question about whether the Cavs would be “buyers” or “sellers” at the trade deadline by answering that “we’re going to buy to the extent that it makes us better for the long haul”. This answer is amazingly ambiguous, though some media outlets decided to run with it and determine that the Cavs would be “buyers” headed into the next few weeks, he’s really just saying “I’ll do whatever is best for the organization.” This could mean doing nothing at all.
What we do know is that Griffin has the next two weeks to figure it out. As for the rest of us, we’ll just sitting back, anxiously watching the onslaught of trade rumors that are surely headed Cleveland’s way, all while wondering if David Griffin really is the future. And if not, then who is?
Born in 1986, the year both Mark Price and Brad Daugherty were drafted, in the Cleveland suburbs it was inevitable that a life of Cavs fandom awaited Joe. His first live Cavaliers viewing experience came in 1992 against the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Richfield Coliseum, Larry Bird's final game. The Cavaliers struggled in the years that followed and so Joe took to the NBA as a whole, falling in love with its goofy cast of characters. He filled his bookshelf with NBA biographies and begged his mother endlessly for a Charlotte Hornets starter jacket after falling in love with Larry Johnson's Grandmama persona.
His fondness for statistics in sports started early as well as he'd comb through the box scores of the Monday morning newspaper hand calculating his dad's fantasy football scores for the week. His junior year of high school his Calculus teacher upon discovering his love for basketball recommended to him Dean Oliver's "Basketball on Paper" which opened up the world of advanced statistics in sports to him. Today it is rare for him not have some combination of Basketball-Reference, 82games, MySynergySports, or NBA SportsVu open in his browser. His writing is about more than just stats though as he can't help but inject his own personality into his work.
Joe's love of writing and radio led him to blogging Cavaliers for various sites in 2012 as well as starting his own weekly podcast on Cleveland sports, Defend Cleveland Friday with Mike and Joe. On his journey through the Cavaliers writing world he's been lucky enough to contribute to NewsNet5, CavsZine4, and the Defend Cleveland Show and now is happy to bring his work to WFNY.