Getting back together with an ex is rarely a smart decision, especially if his name is Mike Brown and you’re the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Brown’s prior tenure in Cleveland (2005-10) wasn’t all that bad, but it also wasn’t what Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers faithful wanted. The relationship could have been worse, but there were no wedding plans in the future. There just wasn’t enough chemistry.
Brown’s biggest shortcoming is his inability to facilitate a quality offense, instead specializing in cultivating strong play at the defensive end of the floor. While there are few more intelligent defensive coaches in the league, Brown’s offensive limitations severely limited what the Cavs could do in his prior stint with the team—a stint that encompassed five of LeBron James’ formative seasons.
According to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, Gilbert may be ready to give Brown another chance. The Cavs owner reportedly called his former coach Sunday to “gauge Brown’s interest in a possible return.”
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
James’ infamous departure from Cleveland paved the way for a new star to be born under the bright lights of Quicken Loans Arena. While the league’s preeminent superstar made his way to Miami and a championship, Kyrie Irving was making his case to be a future No. 1 pick and the sign of revitalization in Cleveland.
Irving has proved to be the star Cleveland knew he could be, but the Cavs continue to flounder, both from lack of elite talent and poor coaching—the most recent of which from Byron Scott. With Scott out the door, Gilbert has given himself little room for error. He has to make the most of this opportunity.
While lack of a supporting cast was one of the biggest reasons James skipped town, some of the blame has to be put on Brown’s shoulders. He failed to lead his team to a championship with one of the league’s most dominant players, and Gilbert should be wary of handing over Irving’s fate to the same man.
Sometimes familiarity leads to poor decisions, and re-hiring Brown would prove to be one of those decisions.
The biggest problem for Gilbert and the Cavs will lie in finding a better coach willing to take the reins in Cleveland. There is a lot of terrific young talent on display in Cleveland, but it’s still far from an enticing option for free-agent players and coaches.
The free-agent coaching market is fairly limited this offseason. Apart from Phil Jackson (who has been linked to the Cavs recently, per Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein of ESPN), there aren’t many quality options for Gilbert to consider. He may have to wait for the playoffs to wind down, allowing other teams to cut ties with more aptly-suited candidates.
Gilbert can’t panic and rush into a decision without first considering every option. Should he decide to bring back Brown for another tenure before more options become available, Cleveland will likely find itself in search of a new head coach before the dust settles.
If familiarity breeds contempt, Gilbert would be wise to leave well enough alone.