When Byron Scott was fired by the Cleveland Cavaliers, I had some questions. I wasn't shy about voicing the fact that I thought it was the wrong decision. We've gone over all of the reasons time and time again -- Byron didn't have enough time, the injuries were relentless, the team was so young, etc. When I looked at all of those factors, something just didn't add up.
I had some unanswered questions.
Coach Scott is a good coach and he's had plenty of success in the past. This team is clearly in a rebuilding phase and has pretty obviously not been built to win games over the past couple of seasons. So why would you fire a proven coach that the players like? Was it because they haven't won enough games? Was it purely the lack of defensive progress? Without access to what was really going on behind the scenes, it looked like a poor decision. It looked like Chris Grant and Dan Gilbert were just trying to find a scapegoat and pin it all on Byron Scott. From where I stood, it appeared like the Cavs fired Byron Scott just for the sake of it. And I didn't like that.
When I started hearing rumors that Scott's job could be in jeopardy, I had a bunch of questions. I outlined several of those already but the biggest one that stood out was: who would you replace him with? In order to justify firing a coach, you have to be able to replace him with somebody that you think is a better fit for the job. I looked at the coaches that were available and I just didn't see that. I love Stan Van Gundy as a coach, but always knew the odds of him coaching the Cavs were quite slim. The effort to get Phil Jackson was never realistic. There were some potential first-time head coaches that could get promoted, but those guys are unknowns and I admittedly have no way of knowing if they are ready for the head coaching gig. So from my point of view, the Cavs were firing a coach who didn't necessarily deserve to be fired and had to be able to find somebody who was a better fit to lead Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and the rest of these young Cavaliers. That didn't sit well with me. I didn't see how that made sense for this team right now. I didn't think a coaching change would magically turn the Cavs around and make them into the team that we want them to be -- but apparently the Cavs' front office had another idea.
Mike Brown answered those questions.
As I watched the press conference announcing the firing of Byron Scott, I struggled to pin down the actual reason for the Cavs' decision. And I don't mean all of the reasons that fans and media think they fired him. I mean the actual reason. And I couldn't find that until Chris Grant outlined all of the things that he wanted in a replacement head coach.
"We're looking for someone with proven success, looking for someone who has a strong defensive system, someone who is a teacher, grinder and a worker."
Now that's a pretty specific description from someone who claimed to have "not started the process" yet. Looking at it today, it's quite clear that Grant was talking about the newly hired Mike Brown. The swiftness of the decision was telling. As I sit here and write this just one week after Coach Scott got released, the Cavs already have a new head coach. That has to be one of the quickest coaching searches in NBA history. Did they even interview anybody else? I'm not sure. And while the brief "search" may make some fans uneasy, it does the opposite for me. From the day that the coaching vacancy opened (and some time before that, I assume), the Cavs knew what they wanted. They didn't fire Byron Scott as a scapegoat. They didn't fire him just to make a change and then scramble to find a replacement later. They knew exactly what they wanted in a coach and they knew exactly who that coach was: Mike Brown.
It's not you, it's him.
I still don't think Byron Scott got a fair shake. I think this team is going to improve with a better roster and more experience core regardless of who is coaching them. I still think Byron Scott is a good coach and will have success in another organization when he decides to coach again. But this was never really about Byron Scott -- it was about Mike Brown. Brown is the coach that they wanted. He's the guy that fits the description Grant gave us. The Cavs never really intended for this to be a "coaching search;" it was a simple swap. They thought Mike Brown was better than Byron Scott, so they made the switch.
Dan Gilbert made a comment during an interview with Fred McLeod yesterday about how the team was really fortunate that Brown was available and willing to return to Cleveland. He mentioned that if you look around past Brown, the options for potential head coaches weren't all that enticing. I may be reading into it a bit too much, but to me that said that if the Lakers hadn't fired Brown, Byron Scott would still be the coach of the Cavs.
While this probably doesn't help to comfort Scott or the players that were upset when he was released, it makes me more comfortable with the initial decision. As the Cavs have gone through this rebuild, I believe that the front office has had the right mindset. They aren't afraid to tank shamelessly because it's the best available strategy for a team located in Northeast Ohio. They aren't afraid to take chances on players in the NBA Draft that others may consider reaches. Hell, they drafted Dion Waiters without ever working him out. Up to this point, it had been clear that the Cavs were going to do things their way, stick to their guns, and not give a crap about what the fans or media has to say about it. My biggest fear was that the firing of Byron Scott was a kneejerk reaction to three consecutive losing seasons and nothing more-- in other words, not a basketball decision consistent with the Cavs' philosophy. And I don't know if that philosophy will ultimately lead to the championship banners that we all want. But I'm willing to give it a chance. I like people that stick to what they believe to be true, given the idea is well thought out. Chris Grant and Dan Gilbert's plan looks okay with me, so let's see how it plays out.
In the end, the decision to fire Byron Scott wasn't about the media. It wasn't about Kyrie Irving. It wasn't about the fans or win-loss record. It wasn't even necessarily about Byron Scott. It was about Mike Brown. Mike Brown is the coach that they wanted and Mike Brown is the coach that they got. And I'm fine with that.