Farewell Mike Brown….again – For the second time in his life, Mike Brown has been relieved of his duties as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Acting GM was also given the job on a full time basis, and it appears his first move was to let Coach Brown go.
There are so many ways to look this. It’s deeply nuanced on so many levels. I’ve never held my admiration for Mike Brown a secret. I think he’s a pretty good coach with one of the best defensive schemes I’ve ever seen. With the right kind of players, his coaching style and philosophies can be really successful. However, Mike Brown’s successes and failures in large part depend on him having exactly the right pieces. He’s never been one to adapt his philosophy to the players he has. Rather, he asks his players to bend to his style. Unfortunately for him, that’s not how the NBA works. It is the ultimate players’ league.
There are plenty of reasons why this is a good move for the Cavaliers. Most importantly, the team massively underperformed to their massive expectations. Mike Brown was charged with getting this team into the playoffs, and he failed on that level. The “offense” was maddening. He was unable to reach these players and get them to buy into his system 100%. The inbounding issues were stunning. Nobody would look at this year’s Cavs team and feel they were seeing a well coached team.
However, the deck was firmly stacked against him. Mike Brown was charged with getting this team in the playoffs, but the Cavs organization didn’t give him any of the rim protectors his defense requires. He was handed a #1 overall pick who was a disaster. He was stuck with backcourt and frontcourt players all with overlapping skills. He had to play Alonzo Gee and Earl Clark at SF. He had to deal with the Andrew Bynum drama. Surely Brown was responsible for some of the instances in this Season of Huh, but many of the factors could have derailed many, if not most, coaches in the league.
So did he deserve to be fired? Is it ever acceptable to fire a coach after one season? Let’s be honest, the Cavaliers were better this year. They won nine more games than the previous season. That’s truly nothing to scoff at. WFNY’s Jacob Rosen wrote last year that the average sub-30 win NBA team typically improves by about 7 games the next season. Mike Brown’s team, despite everything that happened, exceeded the average expectation. It’s not necessarily his fault that so many of us (myself included) had unrealistic hopes and expectations for extreme improvement this season.
Mike Brown was hired to fix the Cavs defense, and to that end, he certainly had them moving in the right direction. I realize this all sounds like a heavy handed defense of Mike Brown. That’s not my intent. But the Cavs knew what they were getting in Mike Brown. They’ve seen it before and he’s still the same coach. Maybe it was a mistake to re-hire him in the first place, but I’m not convinced firing him after one year is the right thing to do for the franchise. It sends a troubling message to the young players on this team. All these young players….Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller….will be playing for their third coach in three years next year. That’s far from the ideal way to develop young talent and to convince them that this is the franchise they should want to play for long term.
So I believe David Griffin and Dan Gilbert when they say this was a hard decision. It’s hard for me to know how to feel about. I can see merit to both sides of it. The bottom line, though, is that David Griffin as a GM needs to be able to build his team. That means finding players that fit his identity and a coach that can coach his preferred style of basketball.
David Griffin comes out of the Suns system and wants to play faster, shoot more 3-pointers. Mike Brown was always ex-GM Chris Grant's guy.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) May 12, 2014
“Just because” seems like an awfully weak reason to keep a coach. Maintaining status quo when you’re uncomfortable with the direction and style you’re seeing is unfair to ask of any GM. Yet I think Griffin probably recognized some of the points mentioned above. Mike Brown wasn’t popular with fans, but he certainly made the Cavaliers a better team. It just wasn’t good enough.
It’s mostly just frustrating as a fan to have to sit and watch two franchises in the same city fire their coaches after one season in less than a year. The amount of dysfunction and mismanagement of these teams is staggering. The firing of Mike Brown is less on Brown and more on the Cavs leadership. While I was ok with bringing Brown back last year, I was disappointed the Cavs didn’t interview anyone else. That was a dumb move on the Cavs part and now all of us are paying for it….the players, the fans, and Mike Brown.
Hopefully this time around the Cavaliers take their time, identify their targets, conduct interviews of both experienced coaches and newcomers, and pick the right guy to fit the culture and identity the organization wants.
Who’s next? – So now the attention turns to who the Cavaliers will look at in their coaching search. The Akron Beacon Journal’s Jason Lloyd has a few names:
Names to keep in mind during #Cavs search: Alvin Gentry, Fred Hoiberg, Vinny Del Negro, Steve Kerr, Mark Jackson. Not Mike D'Antoni, however
— Jason Lloyd (@JasonLloydABJ) May 12, 2014
Fred Hoiberg is my #1 hope. I love the way his team plays and I think it could translate well to the NBA. He’s a long shot, though. Hoiberg has repeatedly stated that he wants to stay home….for now. He’s an Iowa State alum and his whole life is there. Is he really going to uproot all that to go coach someplace where you can be fired one year after improving the team by 9 wins? I don’t see it. Steve Kerr is another intriguing name, but his fate appears to be sealed to New York.
I’m pretty much going with the ABD theory here: Anyone But D’Antoni. I really hope the Cavaliers don’t hire the most overrated coach in NBA history. Immediately after Brown was fired, the Twitter-verse was quick to connect D’Antoni to the Cavs job since he and David Griffin shared Phoenix connections. But it just seems hard to fathom the Cavaliers hiring D’Antoni after firing Brown, the exact same move the Lakers just regrettably made.
While David Griffin may prefer a more modern and analytics based approach to offense, that doesn’t mean he wants a team that ignores defense completely and throws away good offensive sets for the sake of gratuitous ball movement. Analytics call for institutional efficiency, not volume efficiency.
How will history judge Josh Gordon? – First of all, let me preface this by stating that if the allegations are true, Josh Gordon is either an idiot or someone who needs to seek help. It makes my head spin trying to understand how someone can be so stupid with so much at stake. With his very livelihood on the line, he was willing to throw it all away just to get high?
Having said that, though, I wonder if history will look back at us and call us the idiots. By “us” I mean society. Without debating the merits of legalization, I think the writing is on the wall. Marijuana will eventually be legal in this country. Now sure, the NFL could still disallow it, but why would they? It’s not a performance enhancer and it’s not like they test for alcohol.
Just as we might judge the past and look at prohibition era with a curious eye, the future could very well look back and scoff at the idea of a player losing a year (or more) of his employment because he liked to get high.
None of this is a defense of Gordon. The rules of today exist and they must be followed. I just find myself questioning in the grand scheme of society and existence whether this isn’t all a bunch of silly nonsense.
New Music Release of the Week – With no disrespect, if you’re the kind of person who enjoys listening to Coldplay and the Black Keys, they have new albums out this week so go knock yourself out. (I really do mean that with no disrespect…..like what you like)
However, the album I’m most excited about this week is the latest epic release from Swans called “To Be Kind”. Their last album, “The Seer”, was one of my top 5 albums of 2012 and this new one is yet another monster. Sprawling, abstract, grandiose, and challenging, “To Be Kind” is like a workout for your inner musical soul. It pushes and pulls and tugs in every direction and asks the listener to dare to come along for the ride.
Two discs or two LPs (if you’re one of the remaining physical media types) and clocking in at over two hours long, this isn’t something to just pick up on a whim and listen to for a “fun listen”. But if you can set aside the time to experience this album as a whole, you will discover new elements to it with each listen. As a music nerd, I love stuff like this, and I hope you guys will check it out and find something you like in it as well.