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Behind door No. 3 is . . . Mike Brown?
Monday, May 30, 2005
Bill Livingston
Plain Dealer Columnist
Let's give it up for Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. After all these years of estrangement, Mike Brown is not only coming back to Cleveland, but as a coach, too!

Sure, it will be a tough transition from the NFL to the NBA. But his father made this city proud 50 years ago, so who's to say he won't, too? I say age doesn't matter. Look at what Jack McKeon did with Miami in baseball, while longer in the tooth than an extinct tiger.

Huh? What? Oh, you mean it's not that Mike Brown?


Oh. Neverrrr mind.

Mike Brown -- not the Bengals' Mike Brown; not Hubie Brown, now a television analyst; not Jim Brown, the Browns' legend; not Larry Brown, who's still coaching the Detroit Pistons and toying with Gilbert's affections; not Gilbert Brown, the former tackle for the Green Bay Packers; and presumably not Buster Brown, either -- is an assistant coach of the Indiana Pacers. Reports say he's all but signed, sealed and delivered as the Cavs' next coach.

Excuse me, but as Peggy Lee sang: "Is that all there is?"

No Zen Master, Phil Jackson? No local guy with experience with superstars, Flip Saunders? No Nate McMillan, coach of a dark horse contender in Seattle? No hot young head coach with Michigan State ties, Scott Skiles?

At any rate, Mike Brown is way better than John Calipari. If Gilbert gave more than a moment's serious consideration to Calipari, a flop in his only other NBA head coaching stint in New Jersey, as well as the overseer of one of college basketball's real underachievers in Memphis, then heaven help us all.

It's also better than hiring Memphis assistant Eric Musselman. In this market, the Musselman name will always be associated with the Ted Stepien era and the "Let's get ready to rummmmble" Minnesota Gophers of 1970s infamy.

But I have to think there's more than a whiff of Modellism to this hire. An exhaustive national coach search, glamour names dotting the list of possible candidates, and then, drum-roll please, Bud Carson steps from behind Door No. 3?

Modell never hired a coach with previous head coaching experience. He didn't like sharing the spotlight.

I assume other factors are at work with Gilbert.

Since front-office salaries do not count against the salary cap, and since Gilbert is better-heeled than the shoe factory that makes Buster Browns, the huge salary Saunders wanted shouldn't have been a problem.

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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ A reputation for meddling, although sternly denied, clings to Gilbert. Does this outweigh the attractiveness of coaching LeBron James? At this point, actions are all that will counter the perception. Words won't.

Maybe Mike Brown will be the up-and-comer under whom the Cavs arrive at greatness. You never know what a coach is going to do until he gets a chance. If Mike Brown were to do nothing more than throw darts at a list of NBA coaching staffs, he would probably still emerge with better aides than Paul Silas assembled in his first Cavs year.

You can find good coaches anywhere, of course. Mike Dunleavy got one of history's biggest promotions, from Milwaukee assistant to head coach of the Lakers, and contended until Magic Johnson came up HIV-positive. The Zen Coach himself was once Doug Collins' assistant. A generation ago, the Cavs found George Karl coaching what appeared to be a casino, the Mon^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^tana Golden Nuggets.

Maybe Mike Brown will be fine. He better be. Otherwise, kiss LeBron goodbye.