The View From Pluto: Mike Brown and the Cavs Have a Long and Strange History

May 31, 2017

MIke Brown was hired, and fired, by the Cavs twice.
Credit WIKIPEDIA

The NBA is a very big business and a very small world. On the eve of the Cavs third consecutive trip to the NBA finals, our sports commentator Terry Pluto talks about Mike Brown – the assistant coach for Golden State who is filling in for ailing head coach Steve Kerr – and whose basketball career has included not one – but two – stints in Cleveland.

Everyone expected a rematch between the Cavs and the Warriors. But not everything has gone as expected, Pluto says.

“That they would meet up in the finals for a third time, yes. But that Mike Brown would be coaching Golden State, no.”

Pluto knew that Mike Brown was likely to join Steve Kerr as a top assistant at Golden State. They’d known each other for years. And he brought with him a resume that included head coach of Cleveland beginning at the young age of 35.

“And the reason that happened (in 2005) was because Danny Ferry, who played with the Cavaliers, and Steve Kerr, who played with the Cavaliers, became very close friends.”

After leaving the Cavs, they both also rode the bench in San Antonio, “where there was a young assistant named Mike Brown,” whose job was to work with the bench players.

After that, Ferry was considered the hot young managerial candidate and came to Cleveland, where he gave new owner Dan Gilbert a list of top coaching prospects. Mike Brown was high on that list, though he had no head coaching experience.

“Gilbert said he wanted somebody new, somebody fresh,” and told Pluto “experience is neutral; experience doing what? Experience being mediocre?”

Once they got to Cleveland, Brown and Ferry had one mission.

“They had to make the playoffs because LeBron James is approaching his first contract extension. And his first two years with the Cavs, LeBron’s team did not make the playoffs. He was getting frustrated.”

So the team brought in some veteran-player support and made it to the second round of the playoffs. The next year, the Cavs surprised everyone by getting to the finals. And that heightened Gilbert’s expectations for a championship.

Instead, Pluto says, “after 2010 they all got fired, and LeBron left. Other than that it was a great year for a Cavs fan.”

A few years later, Gilbert decided experience has its value. He took the advice of his new GM (who went to college with Mike Brown) and brought Mike Brown back.

“So here you go: 2005 head coach, 2010 fired. Then spends one year and four games with the Lakers as a head coach; he’s fired. Now, 2013, they bring Mike Brown back, but that year they miss the playoffs. Chris Grant gets fired; Mike Brown gets fired.”

Showing the  money
For Brown, though, it proved lucrative.

“I figured it out: 

'Mike Brown's been paid over $20 million between the Cavaliers and Lakers not to coach.'

“Whenever he gets fired, he takes a year or two off. One of the years, his son was playing freshman football at St. Edwards, so he was like the assistant coach and manager on the freshman football team.”

But the Cleveland experience has likely proved valuable to Brown in another way.“I figured it out: Mike Brown’s been paid over $20 million between the Cavaliers and Lakers not to coach.

“Whenever he gets fired, he takes a year or two off. One of the years, his son was playing freshman football at St. Edwards, so he was like the assistant coach and manager on the freshman football team.”

But the Cleveland experience has likely proved valuable to Brown in another way. He’s used to the media scrutiny.

“Having coached LeBron James, you’re always in the swirl. … Then he went to the Lakers and he had Kobie Bryant, and that’s a big media thing, too. So the fact that he’s in the middle of this media stuff doesn’t phase him.

“His weaknesses as a coach are some of his strengths. Preparation. …  But he’s not particularly creative once the game starts. But the main thing is, Mike Brown’s sitting there with a wildly talented team, and you have an idea too, he probably would really like to beat the Cavaliers. I mean he’s been fired by them twice.” 

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