In the span of less than an hour, the Cleveland Cavaliers made two major announcements, the first being that David Griffin has been hired as the ninth general manager in team history.
Griffin was promoted to interim GM, from his previous position of assistant GM, after the firing of Chris Grant on Feb. 6. At the time, the team was stuck with a 16-33 record, and was one of the biggest disappointments in the NBA. The players immediately responded to the front office change and went on a six-game winning streak, and would finish the year with a record of 17-16 after Griffin’s interim appointment.
It is fairly common for players to respond to a change of coaching, but there is not the same expectation upon a front office change such as this. The challenge is knowing why the team responded the way in which it did as it’s impossible to know for certain whether this positive change in record should be attributed to Griffin’s hiring, or to the firing of Grant.
But no matter what side of the argument people fall on, it is clear that Griffin has been given the keys to the franchise moving forward. This could not be seen in a more powerful way than with the second major announcement the Cavaliers released today: the firing of head coach Mike Brown.
Brown was a controversial hiring last summer and many (a majority?) of fans were outraged that he was being given a second chance with the franchise which had fired him just three years earlier. Not only that, but the Cavaliers entrusted Brown with a five-year contract for a total of $20 million.
As the season spiraled out of control for Cleveland, the spotlight only shone brighter on Mike Brown. He was brought in to help a young team improve on the defensive end, but it was clear that improvement was not coming quick enough. Instead, it felt like the team was getting worse and that its star player, Kyrie Irving, was regressing faster than anyone else.
What the Cavaliers desperately need is a player’s coach. Someone who can instill an excitement into the players and the fans. The coaching market is littered with potential candidates. From experienced lifers such as Stan Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy, Mike D’Antoni, Alvin Gentry (D’Antoni and Gentry are both connected to Griffin through their time in Phoenix together), and George Karl, or an inexperienced but intelligent option such as Steve Kerr (side note: if any owner is going to give Steve Kerr his reported $30 million, five-year contract, it might be Dan Gilbert, who is desperate to make a splash this summer).
One name that is bound to get traction, at least among Cavaliers’ fans, is Mark Jackson. Jackson was fired last week by the Golden State Warriors despite having a winning record and unanimous support from his players. Despite reports of being difficult to work with (from a management perspective), Jackson has a proven track record of inspiring his players, and having them ready and excited to play. If you are hiring a coach with the basic goal of helping Kyrie Irving take the next step, then Jackson would need to be seriously considered.
Monday marked two major announcements that will change the direction of the franchise moving forward, but it is clear that these will not be the last major announcements made in Cleveland this summer.