What can Brown do for you "This Time"?
BY EDDIE DILWORTH
CAVS BEAT WRITER
Wednesday afternoon at the Cleveland Cavaliers practice facility, the team introduced their former head coach, Mike Brown, as their new head coach.
"Welcome to Mike Brown 2.0 everybody," Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said with a smile on his face from ear to ear.
It hasn't been all smiles for Gilbert the past three NBA seasons. During the past three years, the Cavs front man has watched his team compile a 64-166 record, which ultimately compelled Gilbert to relieve Byron Scott of his coaching duties in favor of Brown's familiar face. The head coaching change also forced Gilbert to admit that firing Brown three years ago was not the best move for his floundering franchise.
"Yeah it was a mistake," Gilbert said on firing Brown in the summer of 2010. "For sure it was a mistake."
While the Cavs may have placed a due-diligence call to Phil Jackson's representatives and a subsequent "thanks, but no thanks" was returned, it appears Cleveland hired, or re-hired, the best coaching candidate available.
Brown is the Cavaliers all-time winningest head coach. In five season with the wine and gold, Brown compiled a 272-138 record and was named the 2009 NBA Coach of the Year by members of the media. He added a 42-29 post season record, leading the team to at least the second round of the playoffs in each of his five seasons, including Cleveland's first ever trip to the NBA Finals in 2007.
Brown is the only head coach in NBA history to win the first round of the playoffs every year of his head coaching career (coached five years or longer). Brown and Jackson are also the only coaches whom have never missed the playoffs in their entire coaching career.
"We think he by far was the best option for head coaches for our organization," Gilbert said. "He's a grinder. He's a worker. He's a guy with integrity and character. And, once in a while, he's even kind of funny."
Brown was brought back to Cleveland because the last three years for the Cavaliers franchise have been no laughing matter. The team's overall record in the three year's since James' exit has been abysmal, and the Cavs have failed to show the slightest hint of improvement on the defensive end of the floor. This season, the Cavs finished dead-last in the league in defensive field-goal percentage, allowing opponents to shoot better than 47 percent. Enter Mike Brown, defensive architect.
Among all NBA head coaches who coached their team 400 games or more during the same period of time Brown was coaching, Brown's defensive prowess stacked up with the best. In his stints with the Cavs and Los Angeles Lakers, Brown's teams held opponents to the fourth-lowest points per game, while his teams allowed the second-lowest points per game from 3-point shooting.
In his final two seasons as head coach of the Cavs, Brown led Cleveland to NBA-best records in both 2008-09 (66-16) and 2009-10 (61-21). During those two record seasons, Cleveland ranked at, or near, the top of the NBA in the majority of all major defensive and offensive statistical categories. Nevertheless, Brown has been scrutinized during his previous coaching tenures for his team's offensive production.
"I've matured more off the court," Brown said. "I've matured more on the court. I've matured more with my people skills. I think generally it's a natural process that happens to anybody in any field that is not closed minded in terms of learning or feeling like they can get better. So, I've grown in a lot of different ways."
While Brown says he has matured in the three years since his original stint as Cavs head coach, the Cavs roster has become unfledged. The only remaining players from when Brown was last in Cleveland are Daniel Gibson and Anderson Varejao, who watched the beginning of the press conference from a doorway in the back of the practice facility's media room.
"Last time I was here, Andy was a young guy, but now he's an old guy," Brown teased. "He is Z."
There's a new batch of players in Cleveland for Brown to coach, particularly a young core that will need to buy into his philosophies and develop chemistry on the court. If the Cavs want to climb their way from the depths of the NBA cellar, the core of Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller will have to embrace Brown's defense-first attitude.
"Our identity will be one of a tough-minded, physical, defensive-first group that is smart in all aspects of the game on both sides of the floor," Brown said. "Our guys will feel it. They will breathe it. They will touch it. And they will see it from myself and my staff on a daily basis."
In addition to the core, the Cavs should have a top-five pick in the upcoming 2013 NBA Draft in addition to the 19th overall selection. Throw in two picks at the top of the second round that could be parlayed into a higher selection, and the acquisition of a marginal free agent or two, Brown could keep his steak of playoff appearances in tact.
"It's too soon," Brown said on whether or not he thinks the Cavs have a shot at making the playoffs next season. "This is going to be a process for us. Are we shooting for that? Yeah, but we have a lot of work in front of us in order to get there."
Gilbert said he think the team can make the playoffs next season, but acknowledged how tough the previous three seasons have been.
"The last three years have been just extremely painful and difficult," Gilbert acquiesced. "We all knew it was going to happen. We knew we had to go through this. But, that's the price and pain you're going to pay to establish a long term, successful run — a run that last seven-eight years or more. That's what we're shooting for."
Brown could have chosen to coach somewhere else, saying he at least had one other offer to run another ball club.
"I just want to win and I want to win a championship, especially for this city," Brown said.
The Cavs and Cavs fans alike all hope Brown is the man that can deliver that championship.