The 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers are basically a total mess. Owner Dan Gilbert started to clean up that mess on Thursday afternoon when he fired general manager Chris Grant. David Griffin will be taking over as the interim general manager, but he's no lock to keep the job past the end of this season. We've already written a lot about what went down on Thursday and how Gilbert expects better and how the fans deserve better. This team needs a culture change and Gilbert believes that a new general manager will help give them that.
But as the Cavs sit at 16-33, the topic of head coach Mike Brown is unavoidable. This is Brown's first year on a 5-year contract that will pay him $20 million. But he was hired by a general manager who no longer works for the organization. Gilbert was apparently all-in on Brown when they hired him and even admitted that firing him the first time was a mistake. But will the new general manager feel the same way? Does David Griffin feel the same way? If Gilbert wants to give his new general manager full control of the franchise in order to lead the Cavaliers back to the playoffs, he probably needs to let him have the coach that he wants.
Does this mean Mike Brown will necessarily be fired? Not at all. Brown is very well respected throughout the league and could absolutely end up being the right coach for the Cavaliers. But his first season clearly hasn't gone the way that we would have hoped and more changes are definitely coming. I fully expect the Cavs to be active at the trade deadline. Trading away Dion Waiters seems like the most inevitable move at this point. But how much does that fix right now? Does the locker room need new leadership altogether, even though Brown just got here last summer? I find that hard to believe.
There's been a lot of talk about whether or not Mike Brown has "lost the locker room." I don't know what to think of that. Kyrie Irving has repeatedly called him a great leader, but then we see problems like Wednesday night when the team just falls flat on its face due to lack of effort. The defensive scheme is clearly taking a lot longer to catch on than anticipated and there's a general lack of cohesion among this group of players. How much of that is Brown's fault and how much of that is Chris Grant's fault? I really couldn't tell you.
When Dan Gilbert spoke to the Cleveland media on Thursday to address Chris Grant's, he gave some mixed messages that had people wondering how Mike Brown fit into this whole thing.
Dan Gilbert said he likes the team as constructed, says "We have what we need." Then he fired the guy who built the team.— Jason Lloyd (@JasonLloydABJ) February 6, 2014
Jason Lloyd makes a good point. How can Gilbert like this roster and feel that they have what it takes to win but then get rid of the general manager that put the team together? And if he really feels that the team is properly constructed, wouldn't their inability to win reflect more on Brown than on Grant?
Gilbert said that he thinks this team with this coaching staff can succeed, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
"This coaching staff and this team can succeed," Gilbert said. "There's no reason why they can't. Obviously there's challenges, we've all seen. I believe in them. I believe these players and this coaching staff can figure it out with a positive outcome."
And don't get me wrong -- I'm not completely disagreeing with Gilbert here. This roster isn't perfect, but there's a lot of talent on it. And if they fix the locker room problems, develop some chemistry, and continue to learn the system, they can have some success. It just doesn't make a ton of sense to get rid of Grant in that case. If the team pulls it together with the help of Luol Deng and Mike Brown and enters the 2014-15 with some nice momentum, doesn't Grant deserve credit?
But if this team doesn't get much better this season with Mike Brown at the helm, what do you do? Do you prevent a new general manager from conducting a thorough coaching search and give Brown a fair shake and let him have more than one season to work things out? Keep in mind that this has hardly been an easy task for Brown and his staff. They have the difficult task of implementing a system to a bunch of players that have never played defense before. They also spent the first 2 months of the year trying to feature Andrew Bynum and then recently had to fit Luol Deng into the team after he's been used to a different system for his entire career. I don't think this is an easy situation at all. I'm sure that Gilbert and David Griffin will have an extended conversation about Mike Brown. And if Griffin isn't the general manager going forward, I'm sure the questions about Mike Brown will be the first thing that Gilbert discusses with potential candidates.
It's become pretty clear that Brown is at least staying for the rest of the season and that's pretty obviously the right move. You can't fire a guy after 50 games just because he didn't live up to your expectations immediately. That's an unreasonable way to run an organization. So Brown will stay for the rest of the year and do his best with whatever players he has after the trade deadline. Judging by Gilbert's comments, he's hoping that it's an easy decision.
"We're going to see Mike Brown succeed this year," Gilbert said. "I think he will be able to do good things in the next 30 games or so. I think this team is going to be able to do good things."
If the Cavs really turn it around and make some progress, then Brown will be back next year and we won't have to discuss this. The best thing for this franchise is if Mike Brown ends up being the right guy. There's been plenty of turnover during the past 2 years and it'd be nice if the Cavs could find some stability going forward.
- Cleveland Cavaliers' front office releases statements following Chris Grant's firing
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- David Griffin named acting General Manager of Cavaliers
- Cleveland Cavaliers fire general manager Chris Grant
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