Best Candidates to Replace Byron Scott as Cleveland Cavaliers Coach

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2013

Best Candidates to Replace Byron Scott as Cleveland Cavaliers Coach

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    Byron Scott is out as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    The announcement was made by Cavs general manager Chris Gran, and the search for a new coach will reportedly begin immediately (via NBA.com).

    Though Scott's departure doesn't come as much of a surprise, the expected vacancy won't make Cleveland's search any easier.

    There are plenty of capable coaches available for hire, but the Cavaliers are tasked with finding one—even if it's a first-timer—that would be willing to work with a rebuilding team.

    They also have to think about how that coach would mesh with Kyrie Irving, and whether or not he can be valuable in their anticipated free-agency binge of 2014.

    Still, even with the inevitable restrictions that will certainly surface, the Cavs won't be short options. They just need to ensure they select the coach who fits best with their team, and any future plans they currently have.

     

     

    *Unless otherwise noted, all stats from this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference.

Honorable Mention: Phil Jackson

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    Years Experience: 20

    Head Coaching Record: 1640-1155

    You can't mention a coaching vacancy and not discuss Phil Jackson. It's just not possible. And with him apparently "itching" to return to the NBA in some capacity, it's only right that we drop his name into the fray.

    That said, this is beyond unlikely.

    In his 20 years of coaching, none of Jackson's teams have finished with a sub-.500 record. Taking over franchises in transition isn't his style.

    I have no doubt that he would entice big-name free agents in 2014, but he coaches to win championships exclusively. The Cavs are nowhere near his level right now.

    We've also got to consider that his Triangle offense may not be the best fit in Cleveland. It doesn't call for a point guard like Kyrie Irving, and while I'm sure he could find a way to be productive, it wouldn't play to his strengths.

    So yes, it's worth throwing out his name since, you know, he's Phil Jackson and all, but allow me to emphasize "honorable mention." Because that's all this is.

Dishonorable Mention: Mike Brown

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    Years Experience: Seven

    Head Coaching Record: 481-314

    According to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, Mike Brown could emerge as a candidate to return to return to the Cavaliers. And I hope I speak for everyone in Cleveland when I say we should be hoping that doesn't happen.

    Among replacements for BScott: Don't rule out Mike Brown. Confirmed through 3 sources he is moving back to CLE area for kids/school. #Cavs

    — Jason Lloyd (@JasonLloydABJ) April 18, 2013

    I'm not saying Brown, who was fired as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers five games into this season, shouldn't coach in the NBA again, but he shouldn't be coaching the Cavaliers. Not if they're serious about going after LeBron James next season.

    Brown was fired even before James chose the Miami Heat over Cleveland, and in his five years coaching the greatest player in the world, the Cavs made it to the NBA Finals just once.

    Also, in terms of catching the attention of prospective free agents next summer, Brown isn't likely to serve as an asset. Though I doubt he'd be a deal breaker, his name is now associated with the Lakers mess and not being able to win it all with LeBron.

    The Cavs should just stay away.

5. Mike Malone

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    Years Experience: N/A

    Head Coaching Record: N/A

    Mike Malone is another one who is expected to be a part of Cleveland's head coaching search.

    He has been passed over for a variety of head coaching positions, including ones with the Portland Trail Blazers and the Golden State Warriors, the team he is currently an assistant coach with. He has previously, however, been considered a hot commodity as far as assistants go.

    Malone was voted by the league's general managers as the best assistant in the NBA last year. He has more than 10 years of coaching experience at the professional level and has been deemed Mark Jackson's go-to assistant with the Warriors.

    For a team like the Cavaliers, Malone would be a solid fit. They're young and in need of someone who has been around the NBA, yet they don't represent too high profile a position for Malone's first coaching stint.

    I'm not sure how well respected Malone is within the player community or how valuable he would be in the free-agent recruiting process, but if he's garnered the support of executives around the league, one has to believe that he is worth giving a look.

4. Mo Cheeks

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    Years Experience: Eight

    Head Coaching Record: 284-286

    Don't sleep on Mo Cheeks.

    In his eight seasons as a head coach with the Portland Trail Blazers and Philadelphia 76ers (really seven and change), he managed to secure just three playoff berths. One of those, however, came while guiding a less than mediocre Sixers team, so I give him credit there.

    I also like Cheeks for his ability to deal with volatile personalities. Those Blazers teams he coached were comprised of turbulent players like Rasheed Wallace, Zach Randolph and Damon Stoudamire, among others.

    He's also done a nice job with Russell Westbrook during his time as an assistant coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    The Cavaliers aren't exactly brimming with bravado similar to players like those, but Cheeks' ability to handle them would bode well when the team pursues any marque free agents with oversized egos.

    That he tends to work well with point guards is just a bonus, for both the city of Cleveland and Kyrie Irving.

3. Mike Budenholzer

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    Years Experience: N/A

    Head Coaching Record: N/A

    In the interest of full disclosure, I'm inclined to link Mike Budenholzer's name to any and all coaching vacancies. I respect him that much.

    He's been working under Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs since 1996, helping Coach Pop lead the franchise to four NBA championships. He's also another instrumental point guard mind and has done wonders with each of San Antonio's current floor generals, from Tony Parker to Nando de Colo to Patty Mills.

    Budenholzer is easily on my personal favorites to take over a team like the Cavs. He's been around the game long enough to where he's not a neophyte, yet he's never been a head coach, and thus, more liable to remain patient with any long-term projects.

    His presence would serve Kyrie Irving well and a sideline ambler with as many championships to his credit as him should only help lure potential free agents to Cleveland.

    My issue with Budenholzer is attainability. He's got a comfy gig with the Spurs and has spent almost 20 years toiling with numerous dynasties. Would he really give that up for a chance to manage the reeling Cavs?

    If I'm Dan Gilbert and Christ Grant, I'd sure hope so.

2. Brian Shaw

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    Years Experience: N/A

    Head Coaching Record: N/A

    I'm hoping the Cavaliers do the opposite of the Los Angeles Lakers and actually consider going after Brian Shaw.

    Currently an assistant with the Indiana Pacers, Shaw spent ample time under Phil Jackson and knows what it takes to win. He was a (supposed) candidate for the Lakers job upon the Zen Master's retirement before the team hired Mike Brown (and look how that turned out).

    Though Shaw is often considered a Triangle aficionado like Jackson, he has been exposed to other offenses. He's played an integral role in improving the offensive games of non-Triangle members like Paul George and George Hill while with the Pacers.

    One potential road block is Shaw's willingness to take over the Cavaliers. You wouldn't expect a first-time head coach to be that selective, but Shaw is well respected throughout the league, and his reputation is greater than that of just an assistant. He reportedly even turned down an opportunity to coach the Charlotte Bobcats.

    Yet, who wouldn't? He passed on that opportunity because he wanted to have a chance. The Bobcats are that bad.

    Cleveland isn't. Between Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao (bad health and all) and plenty of financial flexibility, the Cavs present an intriguing destination.

    They're not the Lakers, or even the Pacers, but they're not the Bobcats either. And that only helps.

1. Stan Van Gundy

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    Years Experience: Eight

    Head Coaching Record: 579-371

    Yeah, I'm going here.

    If the Cavaliers are to pursue a big-name head coach, it should be Stan Van Gundy. Not Phil Jackson. Or Jerry Sloan. Or even his brother, Jeff. Stan.

    Per Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, Van Gundy is expected to emerge as a candidate, and it's not hard to see why.

    Van Gundy isn't afraid to get his hands dirty (re: the Dwightmare), which makes him an option for rebuilding teams like Cleveland.

    Stan has an NBA championship and two Eastern Conference titles under his belt, and working with superstars isn't a foreign concept to him. Most notably, he's spent time managing both Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard. Things didn't end well with Dwight, but the two are apparently still on good terms.

    A hard-nosed, but fair coach like Van Gundy would also suit the budding Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. He would do wonders for their shot selection. I firmly believe Irving would become even more dangerous a shooter and point guard in general under his tutelage.

    Not enough is made of what Van Gundy did for Jameer Nelson. Just imagine what he could do with a tactical sponge like Kyrie.

    Is anyone else intrigued to see what kind of work he could do with Tristan Thompson and even Tyler Zeller? Thompson is only beginning to realize his low-post potential and Zeller has bordered on unwatchable.

    Van Gundy could help them hone their footwork, touch around the rim and offensive game in general, much like he did with Howard. Even Anderson Varejao is likely to benefit from his colorful coaching.

    Looking ahead to the summer of 2014, I'm of the mind that Van Gundy would be anything but a deterrence to prospective signees. He would only help. Like keep-the-dream-of-bringing-LeBron-James-back-home help.

    What I'm trying to say is that he deserves a look. And then a contract.