The framework of a deal that would reunite the Cleveland Cavaliers and their former coach, Mike Brown, is in place, according to league sources, though the two sides do not yet have a contract in place and there are several remaining issues that have to be resolved.
The Cavaliers have moved quickly after firing Byron Scott, who replaced Brown in Cleveland in 2010, last week. Owner Dan Gilbert met with Brown on Sunday for dinner and discussions have quickly picked up steam.
The two sides are still working out the structure of the contract. Brown is looking for a five-year deal; the team is currently offering four years. A fifth-year club option might be a potential compromise. Brown would also have to work out the offset he has with the Lakers, who still owe him $10 million after firing him five games into his second season as coach there.
Brown posted a 272-138 record in five seasons in Cleveland, building a team around LeBron James that got to the NBA Finals in 2007 and won 50 games or more four times. He was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 2009. Criticized early in his tenure there for an unimaginative offense, Brown changed much of his offense, giving assistant coach John Kuester broad authority, and the Cavaliers became one of the NBA’s better offenses in Brown’s last two seasons there.
But the Cavaliers failed to reach The Finals in Brown’s last three years, including the 2008-09 season, when Cleveland went 66-16 in the regular season. The following year, the Cavaliers lost in especially ignominious fashion to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Soon afterward, Gilbert decided not to pick up Brown’s option, in what many believed was a desperate attempt to keep James from leaving via free agency. James, of course, did leave, for Miami.
The Akron Beacon-Journal first reported that a deal between the sides were close.
Cleveland’s current management team pushed to go after Brown after Scott’s outster. The Cavaliers were impressed with Brown’s ability to create a defensive structure while evolving on offense, and winning 127 regular season games his last two seasons in Cleveland — a mark that is just as good as James has had in Miami — without the presence of Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh.
The Cavs may also be moving quickly to keep Brown from the open market.
The Philadelphia 76ers are believed to have an interest in speaking with Brown about their coaching vacancy after Doug Collins announced he would not return as coach next season. The Detroit Pistons need a coach after firing Lawrence Frank last week, as do the Charlotte Bobcats, who fired Mike Dunlap on Tuesday after one season. There may also be openings soon in Brooklyn (P.J. Carlesimo), Milwaukee (Jim Boylan) and Sacramento (Keith Smart).
And speculation has run rampant throughout the league for months that the Atlanta Hawks — whose general manager, Danny Ferry, hired Brown in Cleveland in 2005 — would reach out to Brown at the end of their season. The Hawks’ current coach, Larry Drew, is in the final year of his contract, and the team opted to wait until after the season to decide what to do about his future status.