Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Terry Pluto: Don't Fire Brown

(Pluto is probably my favorite sports writer and probably the guy I try to emulate the most in my writings on the blog (not exactly in style, but in substance- not freaking out and overreacting).)

Right now fans are pissed at Mike Brown. Go read the message boards at RealCavsFans.com or some of the posts at YaySports!, Cavs fans are fed up. They want the guy gone.

And it's not just the fans; Bill Livingston wrote a column comparing Mike Brown to current Browns lame duck Romeo Crennel:

No telling what's been ignored the most around town, but the contenders seem to be the coach of the Browns, that of the Cavaliers and the no-smoking ban in restaurants.

The Cavs, without the Browns' injury excuse, have been a very disappointing team in the NBA. Lack of effort has been their calling card, inconsistency their competitive characteristic, and tomorrow their empty promise.

After wasting a good start on their West Coast trip, in which they lost to three straight struggling teams (Seattle, Portland and Denver) and barely exerted themselves vs. the latter two, you wanted to look around for Braylon Edwards, blowing off some coach or teammate. Seldom has a team been called out by its coach for such indifference, as the Cavs were in Portland, and then played -- in the very next game! -- as if the coach were speaking Esperanto.

Both Mike Brown and Romeo Crennel are likable guys, but their players perform at times as if there's no penalty for passivity. In fact, Brown, saying the Cavs are still at the "learning stage" and Crennel, talking about "mentoring" players, both come off as teachers targeted for spitballs by their pupils.

The last time so many men in so many stages of undress stood around as long as the Cavs do on offense might have been male models in Calvin Klein photo shoots.

Brown has played James, after a long summer at the World Championships in Japan, more minutes as of Friday's official statistics, than anyone except Allen Iverson. No wonder the fourth quarter sometimes finds LeBron playing like (simile deleted).

Brown seeks a "partnership" with James, much as between coach Gregg Popovich and Spurs star Tim Duncan. Yet when James was asked by what date the Cavs needed to step up their play, he said, "Middle of February, early March."

That's Valentine's Day at the earliest. And no kisses for the fans.

(Couple things: 1) Bill Livingston is not as clever as he thinks is 2) Bill Livingston hates Braylon Edwards.)

Plus, local radio host Kenny Roda has taken to calling Mike Brown "Cavalier head coach-at-the-moment Mike Brown" and has been ragging on coach Mike for awhile now.

Enter Pluto:

They are one of several underachieving Eastern Conference teams. The Washington Wizards lead the East at 26-17; the Cavs are No. 5 at 25-19. They are two wins from the top, five losses from being out of the playoff picture.

It has been frustrating, but it's also ridiculous to insist that the season can be kicked into a higher gear by firing Brown.

No interim fix

Somehow, some way, fans have to learn this lesson: Interim coaches do not work.

When Cavs owner Dan Gilbert fired Paul Silas with 18 games left two seasons ago, turning the team over to Brendan Malone, it didn't work. I poured through more than 20 years of NBA records, searching for interim coaches who became a success.

I found two: Lawrence Frank with the New Jersey Nets and Rudy Tomjanovich with the Houston Rockets.

That's it.

George Karl (Denver Nuggets) and Scott Skiles (Chicago Bulls) had positive impacts when they took over teams at midseason, but they were given long-term contracts, so the players knew they were in charge. They also had extensive head-coaching experience.

Teams have a hard time finding coaches to take over a team in the offseason. Most of the big names available are aging and glad to be broadcasting: Doug Collins, Hubie Brown, Matt Goukas and, yes, Silas.

I have issues with Brown. It was apparent the team was offensively challenged last season with two basic plays: a high pick-and-roll and a side pick-and-roll. Most of the time, it was throw the ball to LeBron James and watch him do something.

Brown talks about wanting to get out on the fast break, but he either hasn't coached it well or he doesn't have the players to run it. I lean toward the coaching argument, because seldom do you see the Cavs actually throw the ball 40 feet up the court on the break. It's dribble, dribble, dribble.

This year, his offense has more movement but little focus. It seems Brown still can't consistently find ways to get the ball inside to center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. James is not pleased with the offense, either.

Those are no minor concerns.


Just like how the Cavs came back from 17 points behind at halftime to win Friday at the Philadelphia 76ers without James. Doesn't that say something good about Brown?

He is savvy enough to let the players take credit for the victories, while accepting criticism for the shortcomings with little complaint. The Cavs also are a team with no real player rebellions, major legal problems or signs of a clubhouse out of control. That is the NBA, and several franchises seem to stagger from crisis to crisis with players openly disrespecting the coach.

The point is: Like a young player with some promise, Brown is a young coach with potential. Don't debate the idea of who should have been hired in the summer of 2005. Living in the rear-view mirror of history and playing the what-if game is a favorite among fans and media types, but it is utterly irrelevant.

No time for change

Brown is the coach and should remain the coach for the rest of the season. If he can't see that the team plays with more zip when rookie Daniel Gibson is at the point -- or that Eric Snow's game is slipping -- then he should be held accountable for that at the end of the season.

You see that there? That's called logic. That's why I love Pluto's writing. You want to fire Brown? Alright, who are you hiring? You know that interim coaches don't work right? He recognizes things aren't where they should be, but taking some bold move to ax the coach is the wrong move.

We're all aware that this team has struggles and the coach has and will take responsibility for that, but firing guy now does no one any favors. Sure, it'll placate the message boards and Kenny Roda may calm down for a week. But unless the Cavs have a guy already waiting, a Rick Adelman or a Larry Brown, firing Brown for a Brendan Malone is pointless.

To often us Cleveland fans (and sports fans in general) are too quick to freak out; we can see problems but have no long term answers. Sure we can point out that Eric Snow sucks and Larry Hughes is disappointing, but do we really have any solutions? We can scream "Danny Ferry needs to make a trade" but we don't seem to realize that he doesn't have a lot of movable parts.

So ya, firing Brown may seem like a good idea, but really, is it? Do we really want Kenny Natt finishing out the season? I don't think so.


Bad Becks said...

Ha, I just wrote about Gibson too. Go figure.

I agree with you on keeping Brown around. I think firing him in the middle of the season is premature. I'd much rather see us improve through a trade during this season or next offseason. Its clear many fans were a bit delirious with expectations this year. Its times like this I stay away from sites like RealCavsfans.com. All they do is bitch.

Ben said...

Ya, when the team is in a funk the crazies come out. Ferry's never done shit, LeBron is a prima donna and Brown needs to be fired. Well done anonymous message board poster. Well done indeed.

JDW said...

Alright, I have to step in here on the off chance that the comments about Danny Ferry were prompted by what I've been writing recently.

The recent funk the team has been in has absolutely nothing to do with what I've been writing. In other words, I'm not a crazy.

On sept 4th I posted my thoughts about the Cavs' shooting guards. Most of the post was about Larry Hughes. In that post I note that Larry Hughes is not a good basketball player by NBA standards, and the beginnings of my thoughts on Ferry began are articulated.

Hughes's contract is an albatross around the organization's neck. Ilgauskas's contract--in one or two years--will look the same way. By then Marshall and Jones will be off the books, but that means that when we enter into the time to resign LBJ the team could very well consist of LBJ, Hughes, Z and a bunch of new players.

It's easier to bring someone back when the guys already there are part of group that has a rapport rather than a bunch of new guys, but this is exactly the scenario the team is facing--and Ferry is the one who's put the team in this position.

So: short term: not working out so well. Long term: outlook is dim.

The fortunate news is that the Cavs play in the East and that any team can win a seven game series. Seven games is just too small a sample to mitigate the potential influence of luck. The Cavs are probably the 14th or 15t best team in the NBA, but they are one of the top five teams in the East, which puts them in a good spot to force themselves through the playoffs on a combination of luck, grit, and LBJ.

Ben said...

actually naw, i was referring to the message boards freaking out. You had actual analysis and stuff.

Erik said...

Simply put, if the Cavs would rattle off a few wins in a row, everybody would calm down, the overanalysis would stop and maybe we'd get around to freaking out about the Indians instead of consternating over the Cavs constantly.

It's less than three weeks until the start of spring training, and not one person has yet threatened to put a plastic bag over their head because Gary Sheffield is now a Tiger.

Priorities, people!

LargeBill said...

Pluto has a way of writing that lets you know he really cares about Cleveland sports but he doesn't get stupid about it. He has taken Hal's place as most respected Cleveland sports writer.