The last time we were together, our Cavaliers were finishing up their season in somewhat-disgraceful fashion in a Game 6 loss to the Boston Celtics. Something wasn’t right out there on the floor from LeBron all the way down and the team just couldn’t adjust to what the Celtics were doing on either end.
Now, as the offseason begins to wind up, Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert is faced with some pretty hefty decisions this offseason. Does he keep Mike Brown around as his coach? How does he convince LeBron that Cleveland is the best place for him? Does he hand Shaquille O’Neal another contract? And, should he not retire, does he resign Zydrunas Ilgauskas? We’ve got some time before decision need to be made so we’re going to take a few days to explore each of these options – one by one – starting with Coach Brown.
Brown was named the 17th head coach in Cavaliers’ history in 2005 and, in his first four seasons at the helm, has recorded the best winning percentage of any coach in franchise history. He has been named Coach of the Month on three separate occasions and earned Coach of the Year recognition following his 2008-09 campaign after leading his team to a 66 win season. This season, Brown was forced to make adjustments to his lineup rotations when Shaquille O’Neal, Mo Williams, Delonte West, Anderson Varejao and countless others went down with injuries at some point during the season. Even with their early struggles, his squad recorded another 60 win season (61-21) and posted the best record in the league.
However, it is not Brown’s regular season coaching abilities that are being called into question after a disastrous showing in this year’s playoffs. It is his inability to make adjustments over a seven game series in order for his team – the better team – to come out as victors.
Last season, against Orlando, Cleveland was torn apart by the Magic’s deadly three point assault throughout the entire series. Brown, who prides himself on his defensive schemes, was not able to adjust to the shooting attack and his team was ousted by a less talented team.
It is this season non-adjustments that really have Cavaliers’ fans across the globe questioning his ability to lead this franchise. With a starting five packed tight with former All-Stars and future Hall of Famers, Cleveland was expected to advance all the way to the Finals and challenge the LA Lakers for the crown. That’s the way the script was written. And that’s the way it was supposed to go if you asked nearly any NBA analyst on the planet. Most, in fact, had the Cavaliers beating the Celtics in 5 and then turning around to romp the Magic in either 5 or 6 games. But Boston came out tough in Game 1 of the series, packing their defense to keep LeBron out of the painted area. Most people begged for Cleveland to respond with their quicker lineup consisting of Anderson Varejao at the five, but Brown stuck to his coaching identity and preached defense and interior post games – neither of which seemed to work. Ultimately, Cleveland never adjusted to Boston’s defense or even their offensive scheme for that matter and the defensive minded coach was ousted early again.
Now if LeBron James hangs around for a few more season, it’s likely that he’ll get to hand pick his new coach (who is expected to be John Calipari) so there’s almost no chance that Brown is in Cleveland next season. But what if Bron decides to bolt for the bright lights just like so many former Cleveland stars have done before? No self respecting Hall of Fame coach is going to want to coach the LeBron-less Cavs. So does that make Brown our best/only option?