Cavaliers Fire Coach Mike Brown
The Cleveland Cavaliers have fired coach Mike Brown after five seasons for failing to win an NBA title with LeBron James.
Brown's dismissal has been expected since the Cavs were eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs
In five seasons, Brown, who had one year left on his contract, went 272-138 (.663) and was the league's coach of the year in 2009. But the Cavs fell short of winning their first title and now face an uncertain future with James, the league's two-time defending MVP, eligible for free agency.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert made the decision to fire Brown following an organizational review that began following the Cavs' stunning collapse. Cleveland, which had the best record in the NBA the past two seasons, had a 2-1 series lead over the Celtics before losing three straight, including the final two at home by a combined 50 points.
"After a long and deep analysis of all of the factors that led to the disappointing early ends to our playoff runs over the past two seasons, we concluded that it was time for the Cavaliers to move in a different direction," Gilbert said Monday in a statement released by the team. "The expectations of this organization are very high and, although change always carries an element of risk, there are times when that risk must be taken in an attempt to break through to new, higher levels of accomplishment.
"This is one of those times."
Brown was voted the league's coach of the year last season when the Cavs won 66 games. However, Cleveland lost to Orlando in the conference finals and it was assumed Brown would have to get the team closer to a championship to keep his job.
But the Cavs regressed and were badly outplayed by the Celtics. The embarrassing home performances, coupled with the early exit forced Gilbert to make a difficult decision on Brown, who won 127 regular-season games the past two seasons and took Cleveland to its only finals visit in 2007.
With James moving toward free agency, the Cavs needed to show the superstar they are willing to make changes to win and dismissing Brown, however painful, may have been necessary to re-sign James.
"I have truly enjoyed working with Mike Brown," general manager Danny Ferry said. "Mike has played a huge role in turning around the Cavs organization. Over the past five years, Mike established a work ethic, defensive identity and culture of winning that was not here previously."
Ferry's future with the Cavs is also uncertain. His contract is set to expire next month.
Brown is expected to get a long look from the five other teams with head coaching vacancies. There was no immediate word on his Cleveland assistants, who also have one year remaining on their deals.
Brown's fifth season ended like all the others he shared with James - short of a championship.
It wasn't all his fault, but the 40-year-old Brown, hired by Gilbert to change Cleveland's culture with a foundation based on defense, couldn't deliver a title this season despite having the game's most skilled player and a roster upgraded with the additions of All-Stars Shaquille O'Neal and Antawn Jamison.
The Cavs' defense, suffocating and relentless at times during the regular season, was atrocious in the series against Boston.
Cleveland allowed more than 100 points in six games and couldn't contain Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. When Brown and his staff finally figured out a way to contain Rondo, the Cavs had no answer for Kevin Garnett, who dominated Jamison.
Brown was outcoached by Boston's Doc Rivers, who had his team better prepared and got more from his players. The Cavs were constantly beaten to loose balls and long rebounds, something Brown couldn't help but perhaps a sign that he had already lost his team.
Brown's rotations were a mess in the series, leading to the team's inability to get into any type of offensive rhythm. With James unable to dominate as he so often does, the Cavs' offense was stagnant and players didn't seem to have any sense of their roles.
It was constant scrambling.
There were whispers Brown was in trouble after the Cavs were dumped by Orlando in last year's Eastern Conference finals. It was thought that Brown would have to take his team at least as far this season to save his job, but he couldn't and paid the price.
During his tenure, Brown rarely - if ever - criticized James. The opposite wasn't true.
In past seasons, James complained about the team's lack of offensive imagination, saying the Cavs should run more. He and Brown worked through most differences and seemed to have a solid relationship, but it began to fade as this brief postseason unfolded.
Because of a injury to O'Neal, Brown was forced to integrate the center back into the offense during the playoffs, and the Cavs never got into a flow. Also, James and some of the team's other veterans questioned Brown's game plans in both the series against Chicago and Boston.
James publicly questioned why O'Neal only played 49 seconds in the fourth quarter of the Game 4 loss in Boston. In the opening round against the Bulls, James campaigned to get J.J. Hickson more playing time, creating an awkward stand-off between the coach and superstar.
Adding to the drama in Cleveland's final home game was the sight of Kentucky coach John Calipari, a friend of James, sitting in a courtside seat - next to James' agent - adjacent to Cleveland's bench.
(Two things I take out of this, one is Cleveland's chances of getting Lebron either got better or worse. Better if Lebron wanted another coach like a John Calapari, or this is a sign of the house of cards starting to collapse and Lebron leaving is starting to do that.)
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