Yesterday, the Cleveland Cavaliers hired Mike Brown, 2008-09 NBA Coach of the Year, to replace Byron Scott as their head coach. Brown was notably fired earlier this season by the Los Angeles Lakers after an inauspicious 1-5 start to the season. More notably, however, this is Brown’s second stint with the team, after coaching them for five years from 2005-2010, coaching LeBron James-led teams to one NBA finals appearance. He was fired in the spring of 2010, following a second-round playoff loss to the Boston Celtics, becoming the first coach to lead a team to back-to-back 60+ win seasons without an NBA Finals appearance.
Brown is no doubt a gifted defensive coach, with all of his Cavaliers teams placing in the top 10 in opponent points per game. However, his offensive gameplans have been often criticized, after his dedication to the Princeton offense in Los Angeles helped lead to his firing, and his heavy reliance upon meticulous halfcourt offenses in Cleveland, despite having the league’s best transition weapon in LeBron. While some of this criticism is fair, it should be noted that it’s not as if his teams were terrible offensively- in his last year as the Cavaliers’ head coach, the team had a top-10 offensive rating despite a bottom-5 pace.
Still, this decision must be called into question as it relates to the franchise’s long-term future. Any hopes that the franchise may have had about reacquiring LeBron in free agency have likely evaporated, as it’s unlikely that LeBron would want to undergo the same situation as before in Cleveland, particularly if Brown still commits to an offense that limits transition opportunities, which LeBron has thrived in in Miami. Brown should be able to help the defensive developments of Cleveland’s younger players, particularly All-Star PG Kyrie Irving. Overall, however, it doesn’t seem like a wise long-term decision to hire a coach whose strategies largely sputtered before in Cleveland.