Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Mike Brown Extension: Good or Bad?

Yesterday, the Cleveland Cavaliers announced they have extended the contract of coach Mike Brown through the 2010-2011 season. Terms of the contract were not disclosed. There have been two schools of thought on Brown. One being it doesn't take much to coach Lebron James and anyone could do it, so he is reaping the benefits and is just along for the ride as long as Lebron wants him around. The other being he has kept the ship afloat with his calm demeanor and proved his skill by outcoaching Flip Saunders in last year's Eastern Conference Finals. Where do we stand?

At times last year, I thought Brown looked lost. They never showed any sort of real offensive identity other than the four stand around watching Lebron dribble offense. His constant harping on his players about winning games on the defensive end wasn't getting anywhere. But then the playoffs came and the light switch came on. Yes, the got worked by the Spurs in the Finals, but Brown had coached the Cavaliers to heights they had never reached. He deserved credit for that.

While that may have seemed overrated at the time, I think we can all see this year with the way the Cavaliers have played defensively that Brown's philosophy is the right one; you need stops to win games. The Cavaliers haven't defended the way they did last year en route to 50 wins, and their .500 record shows it. Sure, they have been injured and were the victim of two dumb holdouts, but Brown gets kudos for keeping this team together after a tough start.

He has worked the roster as well as anyone could have asked. Without Anderson Varajao, he maximized the minutes of Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Illgauskas and both played solid basketball. With the injuries and struggles of Larry Hughes, he dusted off veterans Damon Jones and Devin Brown and turned them into key contributors. But most importantly, he has the blessing of Lebron James.

Don't be fooled by the "front office made this decision" comment. If Lebron James didn't think Mike Brown could be the guy to coach this team, this extension would have never happened. Obviously, there is a respect there between the star player and his coach. Two quotes I found most interesting:

"I like his defensive intensity," James said. "I love to play defense and I love to get stops. It helps when you have a [coach] that concentrates on defense as much as he does and then allows us to do what we want on the offensive end."

"Mike and I have always had a great relationship," Ilgauskas said. "He respects players. He treats players like grown men . . . it's never always a bed of roses and we've had some tough times as a team, but for him being a young coach, he's handled things OK."

It's obvious that he has the approval of the core of this team. Brown has done a nice job and hasn't been fazed by criticisms or by being the coach of one of the two biggest stars in the NBA. He earned this extension.

Lastly, this may be the golden age of Cleveland Coaches/Managers. When was the last time that all three coaches/managers were in this good of a standing at the same time? Romeo Crennel is on the verge of his own extension and Eric Wedge got his in the middle of last season. Crazy. Now, if just one of them would bring us a ring....

Big Deal for Brown - Branson Wright, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Lebron on Board with Brown's New Deal - Terry Pluto, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Cavs Extend Coach's Contract - Brian Windhorst, Akron Beacon-Journal

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