Mike Brown was the NBA's Coach of the Year last season. He won (66) games and went to the Eastern Conference Finals. He has advanced past the first round of the NBA Playoffs in (4) straight seasons. He guided an overachieving team to the NBA Final a few years back, and has since successfully developed a winning culture through the preaching of hardwork and defense. And he's done all this in Cleveland no less - quite rare for this town, at least in the last (44) years it is.
But despite all this, Terry Pluto is exactly right in his latest column: Mike Brown is most definetely on the hot seat.
Although, count me as a guy that thinks Coach Brown will beat the heat. To me, he looks like a coach who seems to get 'better,' as the roster improves.
When the 2007 season began, his starting point guard was named Larry Hughes. His two-guard was Sasha Pavlovic. The Cavaliers' ball movement, flow, and offensive production were absolutely awful. The sports talk phone lines were lit up on the constant with people saying how bad of a coach Mike Brown was. Can't coach offense they'd say. The guy stinks. In retrospect though, can you blame Brown for having to use Larry Hughes as his point guard? Have you ever seen that particular movie end well for another coach? Or should he have played Eric Snow? Maybe Daniel Gibson? When Delonte West came over late in that season, he looked like Chris Paul by comparison, even while playing out of position.
In 2008 Mike Brown's point guard became Mo Williams, and Mo went to the All Star Game. Delonte West played the two, averaged double figures in points, and dished out a handful of assists on a nightly basis. The two guard who got the bulk of the starts from the year before (Sasha)? He was buried at the end of the bench, and is now gone. But critics will have you believe that the reason for the offensive improvement this past season was because Mike Brown realized he knew nothing about offense, handed the offense to John Kuester, and let him call the plays. The offense certainly didn't improve because the personnel was upgraded though, right?
If you want to call it a step forward, Mike Brown will take that in 2009. Why? For the same reason he took one in 2008. The roster's better. Shaq gives him a reason now to throw it inside, and Anthony Parker will help West and Williams a great deal in the backcourt. As for being out coached? He was outcoached in the Magic series. No doubt. But should the Cavaliers roster have really won that match-up anyways? With the emotion aside, and the season in the rear-view, its hard to say the Cavaliers were the better team - outside of LBJ - if you're matching talent for talent. Ask me, Mike Brown could have had the spirit of Red Auerbach himself overtake his body, and he still wouldn't have been able to match-up with Hedo, Rashard or Howard, let alone be able to get the Cavs bench to kick it into Lake Erie successfully, given the roster he took the court with.
Speaking of out-coached, would it be fair to say that Phil Jackson was out coached when the Yao-less Rockets team took his Lakers to (7) games in the Houston series? I'd say he was, that should have been over in (4). But Phil moved on because his players were better. And next year, Brown will move on too, for the same reason, despite the heat that's sure to come.