Ten years ago, Mike Brown was fired as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Mike Brown was the most successful coach in Cavaliers history at the time, taking the franchise it’s only NBA Finals appearance at the time and getting out of the first round of the NBA Playoffs in each of his five seasons. At the conclusion of the 2008-09 campaign, Brown was named the NBA Coach of the Year. Nevertheless, on May 24, 2010, Brown found himself jobless.
The Cavs finished the 2009-10 regular season with the best record in the NBA and the No. 1 seed in the East, but they lost in the second round to No. 4 seed Boston Celtics, 4-2.
The move was controversial at the time, with people questioning why owner Dan Gilbert had decided to cut Brown loose while others felt he had clearly lost the team. In that same summer, LeBron James elected to leave Cleveland in free agency to join the Miami Heat, and the Cavaliers franchise was flipped on its head.
A few years later, the Cavaliers would hire Mike Brown back for a second stint, though this time he would only last for the 2013-14 season before being fired a second time. But that’s for us to relive in a few years. Now a decade on from his first release from Cleveland, we can look back at the reactions at the time with hindsight.
Reactions to Cavaliers Firing Mike Brown
“The Cleveland Cavaliers have fired coach Mike Brown after five seasons for failing to win an NBA title with LeBron James.
“Brown’s dismissal has been expected since the Cavs were eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs.
“In five seasons, Brown, who had one year left on his contract, went 272-138 (.663) and was the league’s coach of the year in 2009. But the Cavs fell short of winning their first title and now face an uncertain future with James, the league’s two-time MVP, eligible for free agency.” – CBSNews.com
“The most successful coach in Cavaliers history is now a former coach.
“In a move expected since the team lost three consecutive games to be upset by the Boston Celtics in the conference semifinals, the Cavs fired coach Mike Brown on Sunday according to a league source. The news was first reported by ESPN.
“It ended his run as the franchise’s 17th coach after five seasons in which he broke numerous team records and was named the NBA’s 2008-09 Coach of the Year.” – Brian Windhorst, Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Mike Brown won everything in five years coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers. Everything, that is, expect an NBA title.
“Brown, the most successful coach in franchise history, was fired after failing to win a championship with a superstar – and soon-to-be free agent – LeBron James.” – ESPN.com
“The team announced the firing this morning. The reason the act had to be done before the end of the weekend was there was a clause in Brown’s contract, an extension signed in 2007, that guaranteed him about half of his salary for next season of $4 million if he was let go within 10 days of the end of this season.” – Windhorst
“After a long and deep analysis of all the factors that led to the disappointing early ends to our playoff runs over the past two seasons, we concluded that it was time for the Cavaliers to move in a different direction. The expectations of this organization are very high and, although change always carries an element of risk, there are times when that risk must be taken in an attempt to break through to new, higher levels of accomplishment. This is one of those times.” – Dan Gilbert
“Cavs majority owner Dan Gilbert, who hand picked Brown and gave him his first head coaching job after an extensive coaching search in 2005, is believed to have been the driving force behind the decision. Though is followed more than a week of intensive meetings in which the merits and drawbacks of a coaching changed were deeply discussed.
“Some Cavs’ players, including LeBron James, also seemed to lose patience with Brown after some of his adjustments and rotations didn’t work against the Celtics in the playoffs.
“However, James is not believed to have made a personal push with management for a coaching change. He left it to the front office to make the final decision.” – Windhorst
“Obviously, we didn’t achieve what we set out to achieve, which is to win a championship. But if you’re going to lay all the blame on coach Brown and think that’s going to solve everything, you’ve got another thing coming.
“I think we’re all at fault – the players, everybody. You have to, at some point, accept some of the responsibility. We all have to do that. A coach only can take you so far. At some point you have to do it yourself and we didn’t do it. I think coach Brown will be fine. He’ll be coaching again, and I’m very sure he’ll have success.” – Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas
“Do I think he deserved it? No. My question is: Who’s out there that’s better? He’s not a bad coach. To fire him, that’s making a big statement. After him, you have to get a Hall of Fame coach.
“I thought we prematurely acted on our emotions, as an organization. I think he did a good job. If anything, bring in a veteran assistant. I think we just could have gotten better instead of blowing it all up. Now we’re starting over.
“I’m hurt, because I like him a lot. He’ll be missed. We know how the business of basketball goes. He knows the nature of the business, also. His presence will be missed.” – Cavaliers guard Mo Williams
“It wasn’t all his fault, but the 40-year-old Brown, hired by Gilbert to change Cleveland’s culture with a foundation based on defense, couldn’t deliver a title this season despite having the game’s most skilled player and a roster upgraded with the additions of All-Stars Shaquille O’Neal and Antawn Jamison.
“The Cavs’ defense, suffocating and relentless at times during the regular season, was atrocious in the series against Boston.
“Cleveland allowed more than 100 points in six games and couldn’t contain Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. When Brown and his staff finally figured out a way to contain Rondo, the Cavs had no answer for Kevin Garnett, who dominated Jamison.
“Brown was outcoached by Rivers, who had his team better prepared and got more from his players. The Cavs were constantly beaten to loose balls and long rebounds, something Brown couldn’t help but see as perhaps a sign that he had already lost his team.
“Brown’s rotations were a mess in the series, leading to the team’s inability to get into any type of offensive rhythm. With James unable to dominate as he so often does, the Cavs’ offense was stagnant and players didn’t seem to have any sense of their roles.
“It was constant scrambling.” – ESPN.com
“The Cavs kicked Mike Brown to the curb Sunday. Had to happen – I’ve never seen a team so openly quit on a coach as the Cavs in Game 6 against the Celtics. Down by nine in the last game of the year, with Brown bouncing on the sidelines wind-milling his arms as the game clock ran below two minutes, the Cavs refused to foul to stop the clock and didn’t bother to try to push upcourt for shots as their season died.
“It was sad, it was ugly, and it was clearly a fuck-you to Brown from the team – and especially from its leader, LeBron James …
“You could see it begin after Game 2, when the Cavs lost at home by 18 points and Brown spoke afterward, with fury, about his team’s lack of focus and effort – he even said ‘goddamn,’ which is more than I’d ever heard Brown curse before. But when LeBron met the media – with Brown back in the locker room – he literally chuckled when asked about Brown’s anger. LBJ played it off like it was news to him – maybe it was – and played off the loss itself as no big deal.
“Mike Brown liked to say he was thankful to be coaching LeBron, grateful to LeBron for letting him be his coach. It always sounded weird and weak – imagine Phil Jackson or Pat Riley or almost any other head coach or manager in pro sports speaking publicly that way about a young player in his charge. If LBJ ever returned that love, I never heard it.” – Scott Raab, Esquire
“Was there dissension between Brown and LeBron James?
“LeBron wanted to run…has said so publicly and campaigned for J.J. Hickson to get more burn during the Boston series. I guess we’ll never know how much LeBron’s free agent status came into play with this decision. Dan Gilbert knows he has to keep James in the fold so the franchise maintains it’s (sic) worth and it appears he’s doing everything he can as owner to make that happen.
“The roster was flawed and I personally feel no coach was capable of defeating the rejuvenated Celtics with the Cavs roster. Shaq was injured late and not the same player. Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison just weren’t the answers. Period.
“Question: how are Mike Brown and Mike Woodson relieved after steady and consistent progress but there doesn’t seem to be rumblings (as loud) about the status of other coaches who have no where near the success as Brown and Woodson?” – TheStartingFive.net
“There were whispers Brown was in trouble after the Cavs were dumped by Orlando in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. It was thought that Brown would have to take his team at least as far this season to save his job, but he couldn’t and paid the price.
“During his tenure, Brown rarely – if ever – criticized James. The opposite wasn’t true.
“In past seasons, James complained about the team’s lack of offensive imagination, saying the Cavs should run more. He and Brown worked through most differences and seemed to have a solid relationship, but it began to fade as this brief postseason unfolded.
“Because of an injury to O’Neal, Brown was forced to integrate the center back into the offense during the playoffs, and the Cavs never got into a flow. Also, James and some of the team’s other veterans questions Brown’s game plans in both the series against Chicago and Boston.
“James publicly questioned why O’Neal played only 49 seconds in the fourth quarter of the Game 4 loss in Boston. In the opening round against the Bulls, James campaigned to get J.J. Hickson more playing time, creating an awkward standoff between the coach and superstar.
“Adding to the drama in Cleveland’s final home game was the sight of Kentucky coach John Calipari, a friend of James, sitting in a courtside seat – next to James’ agent – adjacent to Cleveland’s bench.” – ESPN.com
“Cleveland’s next move will be an interesting one. Because of James’ uncertain future, it’s possible the Cavs would want his input into their next coaching hire, assuming the two-time MVP is still considering re-signing with Cleveland when free agency opens after midnight on July 1. The Cavs will have to search for a new coach not knowing if James will be back and would have to go into the draft and free agency without a coach.
“James is eligible to opt out of his contract this summer, a move that would make the two-time MVP – and zero-time NBA champion – a free agent and set off a scramble for his services from New York to Miami to Los Angeles and, of course, back in Cleveland.” – ESPN.com
“Duke promptly stuck down rumors that Mike Krzyzewski could leave the Blue Devils to coach James and the Cavaliers.
“‘It has been addressed repeatedly since the Lakers thing a few years ago,’ a Duke spokesman told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz. ‘If anything changes, we will let everyone know.'” – ESPN.com