The Cleveland Cavaliers are bringing back the most successful coach they’ve ever had.
Cleveland officially re-hired Mike Brown, bringing back a coach who led them to 5 straight playoff appearances and their only trip to the NBA Finals before he was fired following the 2010 season.
Brown agreed in principle to the contract on Tuesday. The sides finished a deal which brings in the 43-year-old to coach a young team with an All-Star player and plenty of room to improve – a similar situation to the one Brown inherited in 2005.
Brown is again working for owner Dan Gilbert, who fired him following the 2010 playoffs mostly to try to please LeBron James and keep him from leaving Cleveland as a free agent. James ended up bolting for Miami anyway, foiling Gilbert’s plan and leaving them without a coach whose .652 winning percentage is the 6th highest in history among coaches with at least 400 games.
Brown’s return has pushed a mixed reaction from Cleveland fans, some wondering why Gilbert would bring back a coach who couldn’t win it all with James.
Right after Brown’s reunion with the Cavs was made official, Gilbert defended his decision. He clarified that Brown and Phil Jackson are the only coaches with more than 5 years of experience to never miss the playoffs in their careers. Gilbert also noted that at 43, Brown ”is not even near his peak as an NBA coach.”
Naturally, Brown’s return raises more speculation about what impact that could have on the possibility of James one day playing for the Cavaliers again. James can opt out of his contract with Miami as early as the summer of 2014 and the 3-time league MVP has said he could imagine playing for Cleveland again.
Brown will replace Byron Scott, the man who replaced him 3 years ago. Scott was fired last week by Gilbert following his 3rd straight losing season, one of injuries, blown leads and long losing streaks. The Cavs dropped 16 of their last 18 under Scott and Gilbert made the move, saying he was not seeing enough progress and that he was most disappointed by the Cavs’ defense.
Defense is Brown’s forte and the Cavs ranked among the league’s stingiest defensive teams during his tenure.
Gilbert and GM Chris Grant, a close friend of Brown’s since college, met in Detroit and the talks accelerated. The Cavs acted quickly to secure Brown, who was approached by a few other teams with vacancies. Odds
”I am more than excited about Mike Brown’s return to the Cavaliers,” Gilbert said in a release. ”Mike has done nothing except win in this league since he used to be a 1st-year assistant many years ago. He is going to instill a much-needed defensive-first philosophy in our young and talented team that’s going to serve as our foundation and identity as we continue down the path of building the kind of franchise that competes at a championship level for many years to come.”