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Behind door No. 3 is . . . Mike Brown?
Monday, May 30, 2005
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.
From Our Advertiser
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 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.
Cavs appear to be near hiring decisions
Bob Finnan, Staff Writer
Milt Newton might be Cleveland's next general manager
The Cavaliers' front office is finally taking shape.
If Pistons coach Larry Brown, 64, accepts the position of Cavaliers president of basketball operations - a league source said he has until today to give Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert his answer - the rest of the front office could include Milt Newton as general manager and Mike Brown as coach.
Newton, the Washington Wizards' director of player personnel, played for Brown at the University of Kansas and was later a scout with the Philadelphia 76ers. He was director of player personnel for the National Basketball Development League before joining the Wizards.
He reportedly interviewed with the Cavaliers last week.
Mike Brown, 35, is the Indiana Pacers' associate head coach. He could be announced as the Cavaliers' new coach at a press conference this week.
An odd fact about the trio is none of them have ever held the position for which they would work with the Cavaliers.
Larry Brown has never been a president, Newton has never been a GM and Mike Brown has never been a head coach at any level.
The timing on the Larry Brown rumors - in the midst of the Eastern Conference finals - couldn't endear him with Pistons management. In fact, some have suggested ownership is furious this has surfaced when it has.
There also is the question of whether or not the Pistons will insist on compensation for Larry Brown, since he's still under contract for three more years.
Pistons owner William Davidson said Sunday night on TNT that he doesn't want to deal with such speculation.
"It's not important to me at this time," he said.
Davidson said he hasn't put much stock in the rumors.
"It makes no difference to us," he said. "We don't pay attention to that stuff, and neither do the players."
Brown winning applause on hiring
Monday, May 30, 2005
Plain Dealer Reporter
Detroit- In the days before 35-year-old Mike Brown is officially introduced as the Cavaliers' new head coach, the Indiana Pacers assistant is accumulating plaudits from his peers.
Detroit coach Larry Brown, rumored to become the Cavs' President of Basketball Operations following the Pistons' season, said Mike Brown was a good hire.
"I'm happy to see former assistant coaches like Avery Johnson, Mike Woodson and Eddie Jordan get jobs," said Larry Brown, prior to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Pistons and Heat on Sunday night. "Anytime guys get jobs that have paid their dues, instead of the league recycling, [that] is the greatest thing going."
Mike Brown is expected to be announced at a Gund Arena press conference sometime this week. He does not have the familiar name or head coaching experience of many of the candidates the Cavs interviewed, such as Flip Saunders or Phil Jackson. But Brown's tenure under coaches like Gregg Popovich, Rick Carlisle and Bernie Bickerstaff proved valuable.
Miami assistant coach Ron Rothstein was an assistant in Indiana last year with Brown. Rothstein was impressed.
"I have the utmost respect for this guy and the Cavaliers couldn't have done any better," said Rothstein, a former Cavs assistant coach. "Mike's strengths are his knowledge of the game, his worth ethic and his relationship with people. His age is irrelevant. He's got the whole package.
"He knows what he's doing, he works extremely hard and he has a great personality in working with people. It was just a matter of time before he became a head coach."
Mike Brown would become the second-youngest head coach in the NBA, behind New Jersey's 34-year-old Lawrence Frank. The Cavs apparently need more time to fill the positions of president and general manager. According to league sources, if Milton Newton, Washington's director of player personnel, is named Cavs GM, then Brown will become the Cavs' president. Newton played for Brown at Kansas.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich., May 29 - The Cavaliers have chosen Mike Brown, the associate head coach of the Pacers, to be their head coach, according to several reports that were confirmed by two executives from the Western and Eastern conferences with knowledge of Cleveland's plans. The executives requested anonymity because Cleveland had not made a formal announcement.
The hiring could make it more likely that Larry Brown, the Pistons' coach, will accept the job as the Cavaliers' president of basketball operations when Detroit's season ends. Mike Brown was an assistant for three seasons under Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, who is a friend of Larry Brown's.
Dan Gilbert, the Cavaliers' owner, talked recently with Larry Brown about the front-office job, according to an Eastern Conference executive with knowledge of Brown's situation in Detroit, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of his relationship with Brown.
A report in The Willoughby News-Herald in Ohio on Sunday said that Larry Brown had until Monday to tell Gilbert whether he would accept the job. When asked about the report, Brown would not discuss it.
Larry Brown responded angrily to a report by The New York Times last week that said he was leaning toward taking the Cleveland job. He did not deny the report and cited serious health issues that could prevent him from coaching next season
AUBURN HILLS - You can probably strike Larry Brown's name from the list of potential Knicks coaching candidates and start adding it to the roster of NBA team presidents.
According to several league sources yesterday, Brown has all but agreed to take over as the head of basketball operations for the Cleveland Cavaliers after the Detroit Pistons finish their playoff run. While Brown has not given his official word to the Pistons and still could have second thoughts about jumping to the Cavaliers, he reportedly has started assembling his front office personnel and coaching staff in anticipation of a move.
The Cavs and Brown refused to comment yesterday, but one person close to the 64-year-old Long Beach product said, "He won't be back in Detroit next season." He apparently won't be coaching the Knicks, either, although team president Isiah Thomas has identified him as a candidate. Herb Williams remains the front-runner to come back and coach the team.
With Brown being pursued by David Katzman, one of the Cavaliers' new owners, the Pistons have identified ex-Minnesota coach Flip Saunders as their top choice to succeed him. Saunders has had one conversation with Thomas about the Knicks' vacancy, but like many candidates, he has reservations about the team's roster and long-term salary-cap problems.
As the Daily News reported on April 4, the Pistons first made back-channel contacts with Saunders in late March. He has turned down Portland's coaching position and had also been involved with the Magic about their vacancy before Orlando hired Brian Hill. Sources say Saunders has held off on taking a job because of Brown's expected departure, and that Saunders would welcome the chance to take over a veteran team that is currently working on its second straight championship.
Detroit president Joe Dumars refused comment on Brown's future, citing the fact that the Pistons are trying to defeat the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. But sources say the Pistons already have told the Cavaliers they will not demand compensation for Brown, who has three years at $18 million left on his contract. Detroit will be off the hook for the rest of his deal if he were to leave.
"Unless Larry reneges, it looks like he's gone," one source said.
Sources told the Daily News that Brown has begun lining up coaches and executives for his Cleveland regime. If Brown takes the job, he has tabbed Pacers associate head coach Mike Brown to be LeBron James' new head coach.
Former Sixers head coach Randy Ayers, also a former assistant to Brown in Philly, could be joining the staff as an assistant. The Cavaliers' front office would include Washington's personnel director Milt Newton, who played college ball at Kansas for Brown and is considered a rising star among league executives.
According to my inside sources (which DO NOT include Phil Jackson), the NBA coaches' carousel is about to take some interesting spins.
Dan Gilbert has been criticized for his interest in hiring a coach before he hires a general manager — but this is not really the case. Yes, Indiana Pacers' assistant Mike Brown will indeed become Cleveland's new coach. But Brown already has the blessing of the Cavaliers' GM-in-waiting, none other than Larry Brown.
Who, then, will succeed Brown in Detroit? The answer is Flip Saunders.
This will be a good move for the Pistons because Saunders is content to stay in the background and let his players be the star attractions. Saunders also lacks Brown's humungous ego, devious nature and his predecessor's penchant for blaming failures on everybody but himself. The Flipster's expertise likewise insures that Detroit will maintain its winning tradition.
The Timberwolves' new head man will likely be P.J. Carlesimo (although Paul Silas remains a long shot). In his earlier incarnations as head coach, Carlesimo exhibited several fatal flaws: On any given work day he was always the last to arrive and the first to leave. His handling of in-game matchups was atrocious in that he often had the wrong combination of players on the court at the same time, and opposing coaches could routinely maneuver substitutions to their own advantage. Carlesimo's snappish, dictatorial demeanor also alienated his players — the Sprewell incident was only the tip of the iceberg. The only saving grace for Minnesota is the possibility that spending so much time working for Gregg Popovich has greatly improved every aspect of Carlesimo's work ethic and bench-side manner.
Herb Williams will return as New York's coach. Yet if Isiah Thomas had his druthers, his buddy Mark Aguirre would be eased into the command seat. But should the Knicks get off to a poor start next (a scenario that seems inevitable unless Zeke manages to bamboozle some other franchise into trading for the likes of Allan Houston and/or Stephon Marbury), Thomas will be pink-slipped.
All of this activity means, among other things, that Phil Jackson's options are probably limited to the Lakers or the Kings. Since the Lakers only tradable player is Lamar Odom (it's a given that Kobe is untouchable), the team's immediate future remains as dim and as poisonous as the air Los Angelinos are forced to breathe.
Could Jackson revive the franchise? Only if Jerry Buss is willing to pry open his wallet and sign the appropriate free agents. Hey, anything is possible in LaLa Land.
However, should Phil Jackson spurn the Lakers, then Jerry Buss will do without a coach until the anticipated lockout ends.
INSIDE THE NBA Sam Smith
On Pro Basketball
Brown plays under looser set of rules
Well-traveled Pistons coach already putting Cavs' pieces together
May 30, 2005
It appears Larry Brown's staff is being put together in Cleveland, with former Spurs and current Pacers assistant Mike Brown the likely head coach and Pacers executive David Morway, a former agent who worked with Brown in Indiana, a possible top executive.
Larry Brown's closest NBA confidants remain the Pacers' Donnie Walsh and the Spurs' Gregg Popovich, and he always works within his NBA and North Carolina networks for hiring. To spread that network, Brown asks his assistants to hire members of his inner circle when they get head-coaching jobs. That's how Herb Brown ended up in Atlanta with Mike Woodson.
Yes, it's all one big Larry Brown family. Oh, that's right. What about the job Brown has as coach of the Detroit Pistons? He even has three more years left on his contract. Although Brown has denied ever meeting new Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, word around the NBA is Brown applied for the job as Cavs president weeks ago and has been waiting for the end of the Pistons' season.
So, one top team official asked me last week, "Why don't you guys in the media point out that the guy who talks about `playing the right way' is the biggest hypocrite in the NBA? Here's a guy in the middle of a playoff run, the most important time for his franchise, committing the biggest sin. He's looking for a job while he's under contract. I'd be screaming it everywhere to everyone. What can be more wrong than that? Where's all the loyalty he always talks about? The commitment? The dedication?"
That's Larry, I explained.
Larry Brown is the Charles Barkley of coaching. He always is going to say or do something outrageous. If you hire him, you have to understand that. For every job Brown has had in the NBA, he has been applying for another job before he was done. Halfway through his last season with the Pacers, he was looking at the 76ers' job. He took the Pacers' job before he left the Clippers. The Nets let him go when he had the Kansas job. He fired himself from the Spurs job to work for the Clippers.
The tradeoff is your team gets better immediately. The Pistons have one championship under Brown and are working on a second. Fire him now? The Pistons likely wouldn't get to the Finals. And, like Barkley, Brown is beloved by the media. He's open, cooperative, funny, accessible and smart. So, as with Barkley, you ignore the politically incorrect stuff, the actions no one else would be allowed to get away with. There are different rules for some people. Phil Jackson said this, so it must be right.
Not that the Pistons want Brown back. He could be one of those rare coaches to be run out after winning consecutive titles. The players are weary from his constant demands and corrections. Hiring Brown is being stuck in "Damn Yankees." You will win, but at what price? You better have a successor in mind as soon as you hire him and put up with the daily instabilities. Brown is known to torment his stars, leaving the likes of Danny Manning, David Robinson and Reggie Miller shaking their heads. Because this is what Brown demands: Play hard all the time, dive on the floor, make the extra pass, the right way. "OK, but geez, coach, I'm also getting 27 and 12." No matter. It's why they get better and then they wear out, and Brown knows the time.
He sees it now with the Pistons, which is why he's leaving. Granted, he has physical problems that probably would limit his coaching again soon.
Life with Brown as team president could be interesting for LeBron James, who despite the public image isn't the most selfless, committed individual. Brown saw that when he was the Olympic coach, and that's why James didn't play much.
One thing's for sure: Watching this all play out will be entertaining.
Remember: Players play
The Larry Brown watch raises a good question about NBA coaches. Why would anyone give one a contract for more than three years? Every year, teams are paying two or three coaches on long-term contracts that rarely are finished. Yes, a coach is important. But spend the money on players.
"Coaches can screw it up," said NBA coach of the year Mike D'Antoni of the Suns. "Coaches are important to help put players in the right frame of mind and give them a chance to be great. But the coach doesn't make them great. They make themselves great."
The Lakers' signing of Rudy Tomjanovich for five years and $30 million was a mistake. Tomjanovich helped resolve that issue when he quit. They didn't have the roster to succeed. Is Mike Dunleavy, a coach of the year with Portland in 1999, now a bad coach with the Clippers? In three of Nate McMillan's first four seasons in Seattle, the team was under .500. Did he all of a sudden get smart?
That's why teams should be careful giving long-term contracts to coaches. They flame out too quickly without the right personnel. They don't make up for injuries and free-agent defections. Brown is the league's highest paid at $7 million, with Popovich and Utah's Jerry Sloan right behind. But they earned their places with years of experience and success. The Bulls are said to be offering Scott Skiles in the $4 million annual range, and he'd be nuts not to take it. It even sounds high--and it's more than the likes of veteran coaches such as Rick Adelman, Rick Carlisle and Mike Fratello are getting.
How about the almost $10 million the 76ers owe Jim O'Brien, fired for Maurice Cheeks? What this usually means is the team doesn't sign another player. As the experience with Brown shows, a team needs to be careful in any long-term deal with a coach.
When the Bucks previously had the top overall pick, they took Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor) in 1969, Kent Benson in 1977 and Glenn Robinson in 1994. Though Robinson didn't turn out better than Jason Kidd or Grant Hill, he was the right pick at the time, ready to play and a solid if not spectacular player. That's why they would do well to go for Utah center Andrew Bogut. Scouts believe North Carolina's Marvin Williams, a 6-9 forward, has the biggest upside. But as a freshman, he's several years (and probably coaches) away from a major impact. Plus the Bucks have a passable front line with Joe Smith and Desmond Mason. They could use a point guard given the medical uncertainty with T.J. Ford, but it's hard to pass on a center. Bogut isn't a great athlete. But schooled in Australia, he has a tough attitude, is highly skilled and is ready to contribute. Former Utah coach Rick Majerus, who is close with the Bucks, has been pushing for Williams, whom he calls "James Worthy with a jump shot." Of course, Majerus also was the one lobbying for Jared Jeffries a few years back. The unlucky Hawks, looking for Bogut, fell to No. 2, so there'll be a lot of trade talk at the top. Charlotte and Utah want to move up, Charlotte for Williams and Utah for Wake Forest point guard Chris Paul or Illinois' Deron Williams.
Pistons players say they were waiting to leave Conseco Fieldhouse after the Pacers series when Ron Artest rolled up in his Escalade. He got out without shoes, tore off his T-shirt and went into the arena bare-chested and barefoot to work out. "There's something going on there," Ben Wallace said. ...
Several teams are trying to deal with Seattle for rarely used rookie center Robert Swift, draft picks Nick Collison and Luke Ridnour and undrafted Reggie Evans and Damien Wilkens. . . . Cheeks told the Portland Oregonian the 76ers are "my dream job," but O'Brien made a 10-game improvement, and that will be hard to match with their roster. ... Manu Ginobili made a layup off the opening tap in two of the three Spurs' wins and made a turnover after the Spurs won the tap in the other game. "You think we'd figure out by now Ginobili could get it," D'Antoni said after Game 3. ... Penny Hardaway, who left the Knicks to rehab this season, talked about returning to the Magic someday. Not likely now with Brian Hill rehired as coach. "Who did you say?" Hill responded when asked about Hardaway, who led a player revolt to get Hill fired.
The ultimate sign the Timberwolves are done with Latrell Sprewell? For their vacant head-coaching job, they are interviewing Spurs assistant P.J. Carlesimo, who once tried to bruise Sprewell's hands with his throat. ...
Pacers general manager Larry Bird is putting the pressure on Jermaine O'Neal and leaving open the possibility of major changes. "We'll find out right away whether he can handle it or not," Bird said. "If he can't handle it, we'll have to find somebody else. But I'm very confident that Jermaine, every year, matures more and more. Some players like that pressure. Some can't handle it." The Pacers, though, are concerned about the potential of returning high-strung personalities Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jamaal Tinsley. . . .
Memphis general manager Jerry West is floating word he has offers to take Bonzi Wells' $8 million salary. If he did, he would have done it during the last 12 months he has been trying to trade him. ... Dwyane Wade says he wears No. 3 because it represents "the Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Yup, just another spoiled NBA star.