August 26, 2014

So, Mike Brown was fired: While We’re Waiting

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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.

“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:

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.

 

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Holy Schnitkey it’s Andrew. Hey btw you missed my “comment of the day” over in the other section. It’s Gary_Owen endorsed too. I’m just sayin’!

    AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE ‘CUZ $HAMROK SAID SO!

  • porckchop

    I’m not in the really passionate camp. I smoked, then I became a teacher, and then a parent. A possession charge is a 5th degree misdemeanor, but its still enough to lose your license so between that and kids I “put childish things away”. If its legal again at some point I’ll reconsider.
    I see the rest from the perspective of negotiating. If you are the league and the players the only time a persons pot use comes up is during a failed drug test, make the test go away, out sight outta mind (whens the last time pot was an issue in the NBA who doesn’t test). In exchange for saving the players and league millions in testing and lost income, the league gets a serious HGH testing policy – which is also BS, but drugs for cheating are viewed far more dimly than drugs for video games. Think of the league going to the bargaining table and trying to explain “We already suspend you for ridiculous amounts of time for something barely illegal, now we are going to suspend you for the same ridiculous amounts of time for substances that are legal, and prescribed regularly (HGH, testosterone), and for substances you can buy at any gas station (alcohol). You can’t get tougher across the board without a strike lockout, somethings gotta give, to me pot is the easiest one to sweep away.
    Since I’m already on the soapbox, I’d also like to point out that the dirtiest secret that the NFL doesn’t want anyone talking about is the Pez dispenser mentality they have towards pain medications. Shoot’em up, pop some pills, get’em just numb enough to take the pain and send’em back out there. Who cares if they develop morphine addictions, or suffer liver, kidney failure in their 40′s/50′s?
    I don’t think you have to be the president of NORMAL to appreciate that the NFL’s policies on drugs are incomprehensibly warped.

  • woofersus

    I was being mostly facetious. I listen to whatever I want. I do notice, however, that there is a very real phenomenon that happens to bands with indie success followed by mainstream success. Not everybody who likes obscure bands is an insufferable hipster, (I like a few obscure bands but I also like the Foo Fighters, and I don’t own a single v-neck) but you can’t deny their existence in considerable numbers.

    It’s not only the pompous wealthy youth, either. I’ve spent some time in the high end audio industry and all those baby boomers give me the same sneering look when I play a song that isn’t well recorded enough to qualify as worthy of playing in their minds. I even had a guy complain to me once that some other demo room was playing a Dire Straits tune that wasn’t from their best recorded album.

    And for the record, I don’t actually think that’s how you meant what you said. It just reminded me of all the times I’ve been music-shamed by snobs over a genuinely good band.

  • mgbode

    reminded me of a funny story. one of my favorite “current” songs is about a red-headed woman (It’s not funny – Tinsley Ellis). now, my wife heard this and thought how cool and decided to look it up but found the Sonny Burgess version instead. it’s not quite as adorable in lyrics:

    Oh, a red headed woman’s about the meanest thing I know
    Will love you a lot, if you got money to show
    Oh, a red headed woman will take evrything you got
    Take it fast, you’ll think that you been shot

    vs. the Tinsley Ellis version:

    “Can’t live without, there ain’t no doubt, there ain’t no one like that gal of mine. Flirtatious love, bodacious cause ain’t no girl that’s half as fine

  • CB Everett

    Gotcha. I guess since I think The Black Keys are a good band, I took it as a dig being joined with Coldplay. Very different sounds and origins. TBK have been around for a long time, but are just getting popular…which doesn’t necessarily make them pop music, IMO. But to each his own.

  • RGB

    John Clayton rules…no matter what Sean Salisbury says.

  • mgbode

    no doubt warped and the amount of medications for PEDs that are used but masked/not-tested also has to be ridiculously long. no way humans get that big and strong and stay fast by eating steak and lifting.

  • Garry_Owen

    I actually agree with most of what you’ve said, and where I disagree, I guess it just doesn’t matter.

    I’ve got something to say . . . but it’s all vanity.

    (And didn’t mean to imply that you’re a passionate pothead. It was more of a commentary on the commentary about marijuana. Bad form on my part.)

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    You’re right that there is the whole “sellout” thing. I guess I always look at it as the degree to which a band changes their sound. Metal fans HATED it when Metallica made The Black Album. But it’s their highest selling album of all time. So was that a sellout move, or did they just make a really great album that happened to appeal to a lot more people?

    I’m not sure how anyone is supposed to feel about these things. The one thing I always try to do whether it be on the WFNY podcast with Craig or in my WWW editions is to make it clear that I’m only giving my opinions. I love how diverse everyone’s musical tastes are. It makes it so much easier to learn new things from other people.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    I don’t consider TBK pop at all. They’re definitely a rock band. They just don’t make the kind of rock music I enjoy anymore. I mean, what I wrote kind of was a dig toward them, but it wasn’t meant as a universal statement on them.

  • porckchop

    You didn’t imply nor did I infer that to be your intention. And even if you did it would be excused for the seamless and relevant use of Avett lyrics. And besides, anytime you make a statement or take a stand, part of the deal is having yourself attached to the seedier, or in this case Phishier, persons associated with that stand.

  • porckchop

    That is beautiful, love that scene.
    Ya know fighting in a basement presents itself with certain logistical problems, like, for instance, you’re fighting in a f#@* basement.

  • Woods

    TUnEyArDs were just on Jimmy Fallon last week. Did an excellent version of Water Fountain. Damn can Merrill effortlessly belt it out. Nikki Nack is worth purchasing.

    So long Mike Brown. You helped improve the defense this year, but your “offense” was pathetic. On the bright side, you get a 12 million dollar parting gift. Bon Voyage!