5 Coaches Whom Cleveland Cavaliers Would Rather Have Than Mike Brown
In April 2013, the Cleveland Cavaliers made the single biggest mistake of their rebuilding process.
They brought back Mike Brown.
Without even interviewing another candidate, the Cavs handed Brown a five-year, $20 million contract despite firing him just three years earlier.
Brown coached the Cavaliers from 2005-2010 before being let go by owner Dan Gilbert. Although Brown had a 272-138 record his first time in Cleveland, he failed to win a title and was often criticized for his team's ineptitude on offense.
Now back with the Cavs, Brown has a team filled with talent off to just a 22-35 start. Players have complained about Brown and his large staff of assistants (per the Akron Beacon Journal), and locker room problems have plagued much of the season.
His inability to run an offense has once again hurt the team, as the Cavaliers are just 24th in the NBA in offensive efficiency, despite having players like Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Luol Deng (per ESPN.com).
Brown recently admitted to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal that “our offense is not complex at all.” When newly acquired center Spencer Hawes said that he already had a good idea of what the Cavs do on offense, Brown said, “You probably do. What you went over in your scouting report is all we do.”
Despite how the rest of this season goes down, the Cavs need a new coach.
Luckily for Cleveland, there are some good names available.
Here are the top five coaches the Cavaliers should pursue to replace Brown.
No. 5: Stan Van Gundy
Current Position: Unemployed
One of the biggest names on the free-agent coaching market is Van Gundy, a veteran of eight NBA seasons.
Van Gundy is a fiery coach who specializes in maximizing a player's talent. He's already had a wealth of success with the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, making the playoffs in all seven years that he finished with his teams.
He spent two-and-a-half years in Miami, going 59-23 in the 2004-05 season. Van Gundy played a key role in developing a young Dwyane Wade and molding him into the star he is today.
In Orlando, Van Gundy won at least 52 games in each of his first four seasons. He helped lead a team of Dwight Howard and role players to the 2009 NBA Finals, beating the heavily favored Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
A falling out between Howard and Van Gundy ultimately led to the latter's firing. Howard was then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Magic have been in a rebuild since.
Van Gundy makes sense in Cleveland due to his .641 career winning mark and seven playoff trips in eight years. He's handled players like Wade and Howard, helping bring out the best in each superstar. There's no reason to believe he couldn't do the same with Kyrie Irving and the rest of the Cavaliers.
No. 4: Nate McMillan
Current Position: Associate Head Coach, Indiana Pacers
With McMillan, the Cavs would get a guy possessing both NBA playing and coaching experience.
A 1986 second-round pick of the Seattle SuperSonics, McMillan played all 12 of his NBA seasons in Seattle. A true pass-first point guard, he averaged 5.9 points and 6.1 assists for his career.
McMillan has already had head coaching stints with the Sonics and Portland Trail Blazers, compiling a 478-452 mark (.514). He was also named an assistant coach to Mike Krzyzewski for the U.S. men's basketball team during the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics.
Former NBA point guards seem to do well as head coaches (save for Isiah Thomas) and can pass down so much more knowledge to their own guards than other candidates could.
McMillan knows what it takes to be a successful floor general at the NBA level and would work great with Kyrie Irving.
Currently he's helping lead the Indiana Pacers to the NBA's best record.
Hiring McMillan would not only do wonders for Cleveland, but hurt its division rival as well.
No. 3: Tom Izzo
Current Position: Head Coach, Michigan State University
If there's one coach Dan Gilbert would fire Brown tomorrow to get, it would be Izzo.
Gilbert tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to woo the longtime Michigan State coach to Cleveland in 2010. A MSU graduate, Gilbert is a big fan of Izzo, who may try to kick the tires on his availability once again.
Before hiring Byron Scott, the Cavs reportedly offered Izzo a five-year, $30 million contract, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. At the time, it was unclear whether LeBron James would return to Cleveland or not, which played a role in Izzo's decision to stay at MSU.
Izzo's college coaching career is one of the best around. In 19 years at the university, Izzo is 461-184, good for a winning mark of 71.5 percent. He's led the Spartans to seven Big Ten championships, six Final Fours and one national championship.
Coaching success doesn't always translate from college to the NBA, but few would doubt Izzo in such a move. He's a player's coach who preaches defense, qualities that could easily carry over to the pro game.
Now four years later, would Izzo change his mind about coming to Cleveland knowing his star player is under contract?
Gilbert will most certainly want to find out.
No. 2: George Karl
Current Position: ESPN NBA Analyst
The reigning NBA Coach of the Year is also the only one on this list who's actually coached the Cavaliers before.
Karl began his coaching career in Cleveland in 1984, yet lasted just two seasons with the Cavs. He's since gone on to coach five teams in 25 years. Karl owns a lifetime record of 1,131-756 (.600). Remarkably, his teams have made the playoffs 22 times in 25 years.
One thing that stands out about Karl is an emphasis on team basketball. While with the Denver Nuggets, Karl oversaw the trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. While many thought this signified a rebuild in Denver, Karl wouldn't have it. The Nuggets finished the season 50-32, grabbing the fifth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Last season, Karl led a Nuggets team with no true superstar to a franchise-best 57-25 record, good for the third seed in a loaded West. He took home Coach of the Year honors, yet was fired after a first-round playoff exit to the Golden State Warriors.
He's already expressed in interest in a return to coaching, telling The Boston Globe:
I still think I’m a gym rat and because of that, I want to coach. There are so many things now in the world of basketball that have an interest to me that I’ve never had the time to pursue and put my heart into.
Karl is a proven winner and veteran who would help teach and mold a young Cavs team.
Could he end his career in the same place it started?
No. 1: Mike Krzyzewski
Current Position: Head Coach, Duke University
The big fish that NBA teams has yet to catch, Krzyzewski would be a dream coach for the Cavaliers.
The resume speaks for itself.
Thirty-nine years of coaching have resulted in 979 career wins, 29 NCAA tournament appearances, 11 Final Fours and four national championships. His list of All-Americans include names like Grant Hill, Shane Battier and Elton Brand.
Krzyzewski is also the head coach of the U.S. men's national team, a position he took over in 2005. His teams have won gold at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics and will go for a three-peat at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Krzyzewski has done all one can do at the college level, yet continues to turn down NBA jobs. The Los Angeles Lakers offered him a $40 million deal in 2004, which Krzyzewski declined (per ESPN.com).
We know Dan Gilbert is willing to spend whatever it takes to win, so money wouldn't be an issue on the Cavs' end.
The biggest draw for Coach K to come to Cleveland may be his former point guard, Kyrie Irving. Although Irving spent just one injury-plagued year at Duke, Krzyzewski always speaks highly of the Cavaliers star.
"I didn't get a chance to coach him that long, but we always had a special relationship," Krzyzewski told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Irving has great respect for Krzyzewski as well, saying, "He's a natural born leader. He's a true leader. He's won on this level and the college level on a consistent basis. He always has the best teams and always gets the best out of people.''
Money and coaching a premier franchise hasn't persuaded Krzyzewski to leave Duke for the NBA in the past, but the chance to coach a rising superstar like Irving might.
After all, Krzyzewski will likely need Irving to be a key part of his 2016 national team. What better way to prepare than having the opportunity to coach and work with him every day?
As unlikely as it is that he'd make the jump, the Cavaliers should still list Krzyzewski as their No. 1 head coaching candidate and pursue the legendary coach at all costs.