Monday, May 24, 2010

Whatever It Takes...

Today the Cleveland Cavaliers cut ties with fifth year coach Mike Brown. Brown led Cleveland to the playoffs in all five seasons with the team, amounting a record of 272-138 (.663). During his tenure, the Cavs had four 50-win seasons, including back-to-back 60-win seasons in the last two years.

The firing shows just how desperate the Cavs and owner Dan Gilbert are to retain Lebron James next season. Brown, last year's Coach of the Year, lead the team to the NBA's best record the last two seasons. But the regular season means nothing when a team fails time and time again in the playoffs. With Lebron's contract being done, someone needed to take the fall. The Cavs needed to show Lebron they would do anything for him to stay. And by the looks of it, they would.

It was a smart move by Cleveland. Brown needed the ax anyway. Forget the accolades, there's probably 10 coaches in the NBA right now that could have done the same, if not better, with that team. Brown was supposedly a great "players' coach", which is great and all, but being liked by your players isn't what Brown gets paid to do. He's paid to win titles, and was asked to kick-start the Lebron legacy of NBA titles in Cleveland. He had five years to do so, was favored to do so, and still didn't come through. If the Cavs can manage to keep Lebron, which seems far from likely at this point, it's someone else's turn to try and launch Lebron's title spring.

You can argue that Brown wasn't given the components to win a championship and that he did a great job turning Lebron from a high school phenom into the NBA star he is today, but the Mike Brown I came to know didn't have what it takes to lead Cleveland to the title. He poorly managed his lineups, didn't see obvious mismatches, relied too heavily on Lebron, and didn't bring the best out in his team as a whole. During the playoffs, while the likes of Doc Rivers and Stan Van Gundy effectively coached beside him, Brown looked dumbfounded, at a loss, and over-matched. "Give the ball to Lebron" wasn't the answer to everything. It certainly wasn't the answer to the question, "How do I win an NBA championship?"

Cleveland's only answer might be to give Lebron total control this offseason. Let him conduct the head coaching interviews, let him manage the cap, let him decide his own salary, let him set concession prices. Cleveland hasn't given Lebron any reason to stay. Their desperation for him to give them one more shot is almost pathetic. Yet, it seems necessary. I think for a while Lebron did want to stay and give back to the place he came from. But I think he's ready to explore an even greater spotlight in a bigger market. In the Boston series, we didn't see a Lebron with an unquestionable desire to win, or a Lebron who had more fun playing the game and joking around with teammates than any other player in the league. Instead, we saw a Lebron that looked like he thought, "Maybe I can't win with this group. Maybe it is time to move on. Away from Cleveland".

Maybe firing Mike Brown, trying to hire Coach K, and giving an arm and a leg for Lebron will minimally increase the chances Lebron comes back to Cleveland. But as far as I'm concerned, Lebron is already gone.

Image taken from Google Images

No comments: