Monday, January 14, 2008

He now has the time to figure out a rotation

So we have some Mike Brown news today. Care to guess what it is?

Was he fired? Nope. Was he given the dreaded 'vote of confidence'? Nope. Has he hired an offensive assistant? Nah. Did he announce that someone else will be coaching the 3rd quarters of games? Nope.

It's not any of those, it's something better: he was given a two-year extension and he's now signed through the 2010-11 season. Of course he was.

I've had my issues with Brown in the past (and by past I mean last week) and quite frankly, this news really surprised me.

The Coach Mike defenders will point to the fact that Brown got the Cavs to their first NBA Finals, that he beat a superior Pistons team to get there and that he's won 100 games in his first two seasons. He has the most playoff wins in Cavs history (though when Wilkens coached, the first round was 5 games and the East didn't suck ass) and his Cavalier teams are more than solid defensively.

This is all true.

But...

This is Brown's third year and the Cavs still haven't settled on an offense. They frequently come out of halftime looking like they've never seen a basketball before. The Cavs have had basically the same roster for Brown's entire tenure and he still can't settle on a decent rotation. The Cavaliers routinely have quarters where they score less than 20 points and they often blow games to bad teams (like the Knicks, Bobcats, etc). I don't like that he doesn't work the refs like the great coaches do (he rarely voices complaints like Jackson, Riley, Brown et al) and he doesn't get thrown out in order to prove a point.

Has he improved? Sure. He's stopped falling back on Eric Snow. He's at least willing to experiment with lineup changes (he even started Daniel Gibson last season). He knows what his weaknesses are (at least he's self aware) and he does try to improve (though I still want him to sign a Tex Winter/Del Harris type assistant). And hell, we are starting to see actual plays coming out of time outs (a back door pass? Huzzah!).

But an extension? Was this really necessary? Brown was signed through next year anyways. There's a lot of games to be played between now and then and I wasn't entirely sure that Brown shouldn't have been on the hot seat.

However, the extension does accomplish some things. The extension sends a message to certain players (Larry Hughes, Damon Jones, Ira Newble) that Coach is going to be here awhile. Make all the fuss you want, but you aren't going to get this guy fired. Danny Ferry or Dan Gilbert simply making a statement in Brown's favor doesn't accomplish that (in fact, it just fuels speculation). Plus, it's not like Gilbert can't turn around and fire Brown tomorrow if he so desired (it's not like the extension counts against the cap and it's not my money they'd be throwing down the drain).

What this extension does is give Brown credibility and peace of mind. He's the coach today, he'll be the coach tomorrow and he has full backing of management (and, more than likely, LeBron). He can coach without looking over his shoulder or reading the papers. And in that respect, I like the signing.

He is a young coach who should improve. He did beat a Piston team that was more talented than the Cavaliers (ya, LeBron went off, but you don't beat a team you shouldn't without a good coach). I still have issues with some of his tactics and style, but Brown manages to win more than he loses.

But hell, if he gets an extension through '10-11 for this season, imagine how long he'd be signed if the Cavs didn't collapse in the 3rd quarter...

4 comments:

graham said...

I think it's a good move, not that I'm a huge Brown fan though. The team needs stability for their future (read: LeBron's future in Cleveland), and a coaching change would be some upheaval the front office can't afford.

And like you said, Gilbert wouldn't think twice about eating his contract.

Oh, and I hate to say it, but I think Brown has been better as a coach than Ferry has been as a GM. Ferry is a smart guy and hasn't been awful, but he's gonna have to help LeBron and Brown out a lot more.

Erik said...

There were rumblings around the national media (which, admittedly, isn't terribly in-touch with Cleveland sports) that Brown didn't have the confidence of Cavs management.

If this extension can put the "Is Mike Brown a lame-duck coach?" banter to bed, it's worth it. That's a sideshow the Cavs don't need.

Brown still has many flaws. I think he's a terrible motivator, I think he expects his players to understand basketball on a Ph.D. level the way he does, and he treats offense like it matters only in the context of getting defensive stops.

But he's not a human volcano like Paul Silas, he's not Bill-Belichick-minus-the-talent like Randy Wittman. He doesn't butt heads with LeBron over ego-driven matters, and he handled the whole Damon Jones/Ira Newble refusing to come into the game fiasco with fairness. Silas probably would have socked Jones and Newble in the gut and suspended them for 10 games each.

Above all, Brown has the right idea. Defense wins championships. Defense and rebounding got the Cavs to the Finals last year despite not having a Finals-caliber roster.

I have my issues with Brown. But the fact that Brown has two 50-win seasons and a conference title under his belt in two years at the helm, and fans are still treating this extension as a sign of the apocalypse, just underscores to me what a bad NBA basketball town Cleveland really is. Good LeBron James town, bad basketball town.

No Browns coach who led his team to a Super Bowl would ever be under this kind of fire the following season, even if he stumbled out of the game 3-5. But that's another rant for another time.

Ben said...

Personally, I've thought Ferry has gotten a bad rap for awhile. I know he needs to get the team a PG and he hasn't addressed that... but its not like there were a lot of (good) options. I'm really glad they haven't overpaid for a someone like Earl Watson.

It's important to me that Ferry goes the San Antonio route rather than the Minnesota route in regards to James. A quick fix may be neat for right now, but you can't get locked into bad contracts just to improve the team a little bit (which is what an Earl Watson-esque signing would do). That may mean sitting and waiting out bad deals rather than taking on new bad contracts, which is fine with me.

As for Brown... If this offense doesn't improve this year, I think Ferry has to force an offensive assistant on him at some point (Chud/Romeo style), because a team with LeBron, Z, Gibson and Gooden shouldn't struggle to score points.

I guess a lot of what Brown does to bug me is game-to-game type things; sub patterns, effort on a given night, certain play calls, etc.

But the big picture stuff is pretty solid. He wins games, he wins series and he does a solid job overall. However, the lack of motivation or effort worries me. However, part of me thinks about Belichick and wonders if the Cavs let Brown go, he might 'get it' somewhere else...

Finally... we're gonna have to pick one or the other. If we're gonna bitch about how bad the roster is (only LeBron and Boobie are real players!!11!!eleventy!!) then we can't fault the coach for the crappy team not performing well... right?

Or do we just lay all of the franchises success at the feet of LeBron and go that way. "they only won bc of James" "that guy only signed here bc of James" etc...

Erik said...

I've often thought about the Belichick-Brown comparison. It's obvious that Brown has an extensive tactical knowledge of defense, and like Belichick, I don't think Cleveland totally realizes what they have in Brown.

Brown seriously has the tools to be an elite coach in this league. He's only scraping the tip of his potential, but because Cleveland teams' policy is to hire unproven coaches, we also have to live with the ups and downs of a coach who is learning on the job.

Of course, Brown didn't come in here believing he was Gregg Popovich 2.0, the way Belichick tried to emulate Bill Parcells. That ego-stunt really cost Belichick brownie points with Cleveland fans and media.

For right now, it appears LeBron believes in what Brown is doing and likes having him as a coach. We can nit-pick about Brown's faults, but if it's a good marriage between coach and superstar, everyone wins.

I, for one, am not about to sit here and act like I know who should be coaching the Cavs better than LeBron knows. If LeBron likes Brown, I accept him.