When Byron Scott was fired as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers on April 18, the Cavs’ upward climb from cellar dweller to eventual title contender was immediately put on pause. What once seemed like an incredibly bright future for the Cavs was now suddenly in question, as this young and upcoming team momentarily had no conductor to their train.
When LeBron James picked up his bags and headed south in July of 2010, anyone with half a brain knew that the years following would not be as bright as they had been with him. Without LeBron, it was well known that the Cavs would, well, struggle. And that’s exactly what they did. So why was Byron Scott blamed for what was commonly expected?
Sure, the Cavs only won three more games this season than they did during the 2011-12 season. Perhaps Dan Gilbert and the rest of the Cavs front office felt Coach Scott wasn’t developing players – or wins – at a necessary pace. But considering that the Cavs’ top three players – Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao – missed a combined 101 games this season, what did Cavaliers fans really expect this season? If they expected much more than a 24-58 record, they’re simply asking too much, too soon.
At one point, the Cavaliers seemed to be following the Oklahoma City Thunder’s blueprint towards building through the draft and steady improvement. However, the one glaring difference between these two blueprints is that the Thunder never fired their head coach, Scott Brooks, even after he was criticized early in his stint with OKC. After ‘staying the course’ with Brooks, the Thunder were rewarded, as they’re now a year removed from their first Final appearance and again have a great opportunity to win a title this season.
The decision to fire Scott was one that Dan Gilbert obviously felt was necessary – and maybe he’s right. The next question for Gilbert and company remained: Where do the Cavs go from here?
That question was answered earlier this week, as the Cavs hired their former head coach and former Lakers coach Mike Brown to a five-year, $20 million deal. Brown coached the then-LeBron-led Cavaliers from 2005-2010, even leading the team to an NBA Finals appearance in 2007. However, after being fired by the Lakers just five games into the 2012-13 season, he’s been on the open market since.
I disagreed with the original decision to fire Scott in the first place, but when you look at the situation realistically, the only plausible solution was to hire Brown.
Irving, the cornerstone and franchise player of the Cavs, disapproved of the decision to fire Byron Scott, saying he had to get over the loss of his “basketball father.” However, I’m confident that Irving will quickly take a liking to Brown.
Known as a defensive-savvy coach, Brown was fired by the Cavs in 2010, per LeBron’s request. Now, three years later, Brown returns to Cleveland for stint No. 2 with the Cavs, only this time it won’t be with LeBron.
The 2009 NBA Coach of the Year catches a bad rap after being unfairly fired from his original stint with Cleveland and his stint in Los Angeles. However, as someone who exclusively covers the Lakers and Cavs, I will say this: Mike Brown is a good coach, and Cleveland fans better appreciate that.
Mike Brown isn’t a perfect coach by any means. But he is a very capable, disciplined coach who is known for his defensive schemes and work ethic – both of which are areas in which the Cavs could greatly improve upon.
When you look at the Cavs’ major areas of concern, the two most glaring holes are defense and discipline. Fortunately, Brown will help solve both of those concerns.
And if you’re one of those Cavs fans still holding out hope for LeBron’s return to Cleveland next summer, it’s about time you cut your losses. After all, do you really think LeBron is going to leave Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the city of Miami to play for the coach that he had fired three years ago? While the hiring of Brown certainly won’t entice LeBron to come back to Cleveland, that was a long shot to begin with anyways.
With an extremely young, yet talented, core of Irving, Waiters and Tristan Thompson, it’s safe to say that Brown’s biggest task will be to develop the talent of all three of these players. Will he succeed with that task? Only time will tell, but I have confidence in Brown, and so should you.