NBA PM: Mike Brown’s Chance At Redemption
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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Mike Brown’s Chance At Redemption
When the Cleveland Cavaliers let Mike Brown go in the summer of 2010, it was because they thought it would help their chances of retaining LeBron James. It didn’t. He still ended up leaving and signing with the Miami HEAT.
When the Los Angeles Lakers let Mike Brown go five games into this season, it was because they thought making a change at head coach would allow them to fulfill their championship potential. It didn’t. They finished the regular season 45-37 and it took them up until the final hours of the last day of the regular season to clinch their spot in the playoffs.
Undeservingly made the scapegoat in each of his last two stops, Brown deserved another chance to be a head coach in the NBA. As soon as the playoffs began his name started popping up in association with openings across the league and now, according to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, he is headed back to the sidelines with the Cavaliers. The Philadelphia 76ers were also reported to have interest in Brown, who just has a handshake agreement with the Cavaliers right now, but the deal is rumored to be worth $20 million over five years. Apparently Brown’s contract with the Lakers had an offset clause in it, so as a result of him coaching again they are going to save the $6 million they would have had to pay him over the next two years otherwise.
Just being re-hired by the Cavaliers is somewhat vindicating for Brown. It shows that the original decision to fire him was somewhat made in haste and desperation to try and please a superstar who was on his way out anyway. He wasn’t appreciated, but they realized what they had once he was gone and that’s why they’re bringing him back.
During his original stint with the Cavs, all of the team’s success was attributed to James. When the team failed, though, most of the fingers were pointed at him. Never mind the fact that the organization failed to get any free agent of significance to pair up with James throughout his time there while other teams like the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics were able to load up with star power, Brown was labeled as the problem.
When Brown was given the job in 2005, the Cavaliers were coming off of a 42-40 campaign. They hadn’t made the playoffs since 1997-98. After he took over they became a perennial playoff team, making it in each of the five years he was at the helm. They made a trip to the NBA Finals in 2007 and accumulated a record of 272-138 in the regular season and 42-29 in the postseason. That’s all with a team that had just one star player the entire time. Yes, that star was James – the biggest the league has to offer – but it’s difficult to compete for a championship with two superstars in today’s NBA, trying to do so with one is an impossible task.
The situation that Brown is going to now with Cleveland is eerily similar to the one he entered back in 2005. They’re a young team with plenty of potential. They’re competitive and talented, but they went 24-58 last season and still have a long way to go. In All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving they have their go-to guy like they did with James back then, it’s just up to Brown to develop them and push them into that next level.
He was able to do that his first time around, but didn’t get the credit that he deserved. If he’s able to do it again, that won’t be the case.
The coaching market is about as strong as it has ever been with guys like Phil Jackson, the Van Gundy brothers and Nate McMillan among other quality candidates all being available. The Cavaliers quickly snatched up Brown, though, because they know he can do the job they’re asking him to. They already saw him do it once before and trust in him to do it again.
Now that their head coaching search is complete, the Cavaliers’ focus will shift to the draft. The draft lottery takes place on May 21 and the Cavaliers have the third best chance (15.6 percent) of landing the number one pick. If they win the lottery, Kentucky center Nerlens Noel would make a lot of sense for them. But, if he’s off of the board by the time they select, Georgetown small forward Otto Porter would be a great fit on the wing opposite of last year’s lottery pick Dion Waiters.
In Related: There’s been a lot of talk about how the Cavaliers decision to bring back Brown could impact their chances at James in free agency 2014. However, on paper Brown is the best guy for the job now and the Cavaliers couldn’t afford to act in favor with what James could hypothetically want considering how unlikely his return is. If they aren’t able to bring the King back to Cleveland, it will probably be much more because of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and how he acted upon his departure than Brown being the head coach again.
What’s Next For The Bobcats: Early this morning, the Charlotte Bobcats officially parted ways with head coach Mike Dunlap after just one year. The decision was slightly less surprising than when the Bobcats originally decided to hire Dunlap, who spent 28 of his 32 years as a coach in college basketball prior to making the jump to the NBA. The Bobcats chose Dunlap after re-opening their search that at one point was narrowed down to Jerry Sloan, Brian Shaw and Quin Snyder.
Dunlap’s head coaching debut got off to a decent enough start as he guided the Bobcats to a 7-5 record through the first 12 games. It was all downhill from there, though. Their next win didn’t come until over a month later and they finished the season a dismal 21-61 overall.
The Bobcats have said that his decision was made with the long-term picture in mind. It’s not that they expected Dunlap to do better than 21-61. In fact, it’s hard to imagine even the most proven of NBA head coaches doing better considering the state of their roster. His firing appears to be more about not believing he was the right guy to guide their team as they enter an offseason where they hope to make some major changes.
The Bobcats are poised to have around $20 million in cap room this summer and they also have the second-best odds to win the draft lottery. They have some quality young pieces on their roster already and while the chances of them coming out of this offseason as a playoff team are slim, they could be on track to become one in 2014-15. Having the right guy coaching them next year is as vital to that goal as drafting and spending well this season.
Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer tweeted earlier that the Bobcats are already receiving heavy interest in their head coaching position. There are some big names out there, but it will be interesting to see if they are willing to commit to the Bobcats given the difficulty of the situation. If not, the Bobcats may have to go a similar route to the Orlando Magic and go with someone inexperienced who has the potential to develop into a solid head coach.
Dunlap, meanwhile, is probably fielding the same amount of phone calls from colleges across the country trying to gauge his interest in returning to his roots.