A Final Salute to Coach Brown

Yesterday the Cleveland Cavaliers parted ways with head coach Mike Brown. Technically they fired him. Semantics aside, it’s an abrasive end to the most successful era the organization ever knew.

It’s difficult to dismiss 272 regular season wins, 42 playoff victories, an Eastern Conference championship and “Coach of the Year” honors in a hastily prepared post or grammatically tortured tweet – but rest assured, it has deterred few from trying.

I write this not in opposition of Brown’s demise. Mike lost his team, and the battles, then the war – leaving President Gilbert only the ill-fated prospect of sending a disgraced general to win back the favor of the now neutral James territory. Mission impossible. Cue change.

I author this instead to pay mind to the mitigating circumstances that factored into Brown’s honorable discharge. His legacy, I think, deserves better than to be abandoned to forum threads and comment queues where – “It’s about time! Mike sucks!” – suffices as the final summation of five fantastic seasons.

Brown failed to lead the Cavs to a title. The same is true for James...for now.

There exist four commonly perceived shortcomings of said former coach among wine and gold witnesses. Here I pay them no heed other than to recap 1) in-game adjustments, 2) irregular substitution patterns, 3) offensive acumen and 4) motivational prowess.

Perhaps Van Gundy and Rivers indeed bested Brown in X’s & O’s. Maybe Mike could never muster a Pacino-esque address as to tremble locker room walls. And possibly our court-martialed captain did his best thinking not during, but between battles. Certainly, these faults helped seal his fate – but other factors were afoot.

After reaching the 2007 NBA Finals, the Cavaliers – to great acclaim – bolstered Brown’s squadron with such high profile acquisitions as Mo Williams, Shaquille O’Neal and Antawn Jamison. While proving potent additions to Mike’s offensive arsenal, his new weapons were equally ineffective at warding off enemy advances. As the quality of his guard slowly deteriorated, Brown’s once-stalwart designs did less to defense the formidable and myriad offensive onslaughts first Orlando, then Boston, would level. Still other newly enlisted men, including capable Anthony Parker and athletic Jamario Moon, did little to stem the tide.

Mike also fought his Waterloo alone. We may never understand just how, or when, he lost the hearts and minds of his men, but I dare conjecture Coach Brown as incapable of such egregious folly as to warrant utter desertion in the hour of his (better, our) greatest need. As the Celtics closed ranks, the Cavaliers surrendered atop a stockpile of unspent ammunition, their spirit extinguished – an empty beacon beyond the means of one man to rekindle.

Finally, a deft nod to James who – ever unwilling to pledge lasting allegiance to his homeland – effectively left top brass little choice but to populate Brown’s barracks with veterans. Captive to The King’s “win now” credo – absent time to cultivate a young corps of recruits – Cavs commanders sought mostly seasoned soldiers. Perhaps a band of brothers, unified by years of trial and triumph, would have better served Brown than the mercenary militias he was tasked to manage.

I cannot burden Mike Brown’s mantle with the collapse of the Cavaliers. Neither do I renounce (nor did protest) the blueprint of Cleveland’s vanquished roster. And I remain steadfast in my assertion that The Chosen One – pending personal reflection – can yet make good on his promise to deliver a championship to Cleveland.

I celebrated the spoils of war in anticipation of victory. I cheered our combatants and exalted their virtues. Now, surveying the ruins, I regret nothing. With conflict comes consequence. Conquest is ever uncertain.

I invite you only to consider the full circumstance of Brown’s dismissal and implore recognition of his many achievements. No one man can lose a war. At sea, it takes a crew to hang the captain.

To Mike Brown, for all that has been won here – I thank you.

Fight on coach.

Windy Days: Thoughts blowing through Brian’s mind (5.20.10)…

Cavs beat writer extraordinaire Brian Windhorst (twitter.com/PDcavsinsider) is a regular guest on local sports television and radio call-in shows. He also records a weekly podcast for The Cleveland Plain Dealer. This is the “good stuff” you won’t necessarily read in his articles or blog. I’ll do my best to bring it to you throughout the “Summer of LeBron” – and beyond (yes, there will be a beyond).

On Tuesday night, Windy was a guest on “More Sports & Les Levine”. It airs from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. (check your local listings). On Wednesday, Brian recorded his PD podcast. Following is a combined summary of his thoughts. Big thanks to RealCavsFans.com member Gunther for transcribing the podcast.

Game 5…LeBron…What the hell happened?

No one knows. Not players, not coaches, not management, not Windy. NO ONE (not named LeBron) knows. Fans are clinging to rumors because they need something to believe. None of them are true. He was neither protesting nor trying to get his coach fired. It could have been his elbow, or uncertainty of the game plan or even lack of confidence in his teammates. But only LeBron can answer that. Brian thinks it will be on his mind for a long time to come. Windy is also very disappointed in the way LeBron played – even more so in how he answered questions.

Will Mike Brown coach the Cavaliers next season?

Probably not, though LeBron will not call for Mike Brown’s head outright – rather, he’ll make it clear he’d like to move in a different direction. Danny Ferry does not want to fire Brown, but the fans want blood. Ultimately, Dan Gilbert makes this decision.

Is this the next coach of your Cleveland Cavaliers? Don't hold your breath.

Do the Cavaliers have a “Dream Coach” in mind?

Two, in fact. Phil Jackson and Mike Krzyzewski. Both are highly unlikely. Though with Krzyzewski, at least, you have the Ferry-Duke connection and LeBron-Olympics connection.

What are the realistic coaching options?

Brian has a list of 20 names. He did not share any. However, in terms of regular and post-season success, essentially no one has a better resume than Mike Brown, which makes the Cavs’ decision all the more difficult. Of course, all of this is complicated by LeBron’s pending free agency. A prominent coach will (likely) not come to Cleveland unless LeBron is here. However, while waiting for LeBron to decide, the Cavs risk losing out on the best candidates. It’s not an ideal situation for Gilbert and Ferry. In fact, it’s a very bad situation.

Is Danny Ferry safe?

Ferry won’t be fired, but he may decide not to stay here. He likes Cleveland and wants to be the GM. Money is not a big deal at this point in his career, but having a coach forced on him by a player or the owner might be. Brian thinks it’s very likely that Ferry remains GM, but only by his own accord.

Will the Cavs seek an offensive-minded coach?

Possibly. They haven’t reached the Promised Land yet, but they’re still good. They want to keep LeBron happy and bring him back, so they will probably focus on doing a better job of building the offense around LeBron. This would exclude defensive-minded coaches in the same mold as Mike Brown; rule out Avery Johnson, Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Fratello. John Calipari is a different matter – he uses the dribble-drive offense, which takes advantage of smaller players and has more motion. Calipari, however, does not have a winning record.

What teams have the best chance to sign LeBron?

New York is a strong player; read sidekick (i.e. Chris Bosh), young team, bright lights and big picture. Windy thinks Chicago is the third choice. LeBron’s first decision, however, is whether or not to leave home.

No one outside Cleveland understands Cleveland. Therefore, they cannot understand a kid from Akron.

Will LeBron stay in Cleveland?

Brian thinks it’s still likely that he will. He says people don’t appreciate how tough a decision it would be for LeBron to leave home. The rest of the country cannot fathom why anyone would want to live in Cleveland. That’s just the way it is. Even if LeBron signed a six-year deal with the Cavs, the rumors will always persist. One bad game and the trade talks would heat up.

What role will William Wesley (“Worldwide Wes”) play?

Wes works for the agency that handles LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Calipari and other high-profile personnel. Like any business where there are high-profile candidates, there is a recruiter behind the scenes. Wes is not a sinister individual. He has helped young kids get scholarships; he has worked with charities; etc. Uncle Wes has many, many connections, but it’s not certain just how powerful his influence is. He couldn’t land Derrick Rose or Tyreke Evans. And he wanted John Wall to sign – gave him the “full court press” with LeBron’s influence and persona – but Wall ended up with another agent. It’s all just chatter at this point.

Will LeBron’s “team” influence his decision?

LeBron’s future will be decided by a committee of one – LeBron James.

If LeBron stays, how will the Cavs address their roster?

The Cavs have as much flexibility this year as last year. To say they are locked into their current roster is simply not true, they have options. They don’t have a large expiring contract, but they have flexibility (Delonte West, Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker). They could also execute a sign & trade with J.J. Hickson – his value has never been higher. Also, they still have the Mid-Level Exception. In fact, they may have more maneuverability this year than they’ve had in a long time. This is still a good team – no jackhammer required, they don’t need to start from scratch.

What if Shaq and Z do not return?

The Cavs would look for another big man. Leon Powe will be more important. They also may look to sign Sasha Kaun as their 4th big man. He’s a good defensive player. Even so, they still would look to make a move. It’s still a possibility that either Shaq or Z will re-sign (Shaq less likely, however).

The Delonte West rumor?

Did. Not. Happen.

“Why I WITNESS” – A Prologue

I give up. I promised myself, no blog. Stick with Twitter. Well here I am, blogging. So be it WITNESSES. I hope you enjoy it. And for reading it, I thank you.

@CavsWITNESS is my contribution to keeping Cavs fans connected 140 characters at a time. Along the way, a little humor (I can’t suppress the smart ass inside). And above all, hope (the best of things).

Why I WITNESS? That’s tough to tweet. Hence my blog, my broken pledge.

Cory's ultimate demise? The high fastball.

I’m a kid from Canton. Born and bred and still reside. I’m 30 now. At seven I adored Cory Snyder. Idolized Cory Snyder. I still have the cards, signature and scars. He slipped on the Metrodome track, hurt his back, got off track and never came back. Fact: Cory kicked off my Cleveland love affair.

In 1992, his career rebounded – momentarily – in San Francisco. My father drove me to Cincinnati to watch him play. We stayed one night. One game. Cory doubled – and hit two homeruns. He would club only 14 that season. I would never see him again. Heading home, I pondered the odds. Remarkable.

To this day, I understand hope as 200 miles and two homeruns – as one night to last a lifetime.

It’s one story. Like you, I have many. I’ll share them, but not this day. After all, we are the waiting. We are Cleveland – the city of horseshoes and hand grenades; of close, but not quite. Of heartache, and hope.

Be assured I’ll bring you Cavs news and views, insights and updates, links and laughs. And on occasion, another chapter in “Why I WITNESS”.

My name is Eric. I am a kid from Canton who hopes a kid from Akron can make all of Cleveland feel like a kid again.

I am a WITNESS.