Posted Jun 4 2010 11:21PM
Is it possible that the departures of a wildly successful coach and an equally accomplished general manager are good for a franchise?
Fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers, in particular those of LeBron James, better hope so.
Last week's firing of Mike Brown and Friday's resignation of Danny Ferry would signal chaos, especially considering what's been achieved in Cleveland the last five years. Sure the Cavaliers didn't win a title, and despite having the best record in the league didn't get out of the Eastern Conference playoffs the last two years, but just line up the teams in the league that would gladly trade places with Cleveland.
Yeah, it's a pretty darn long line.
Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert wouldn't allow either Brown or Ferry to leave unless it was in the "best" interests of the franchise. And in this equation, one certain player is greater than two in the front office. As much as it may skew the traditional ideal of team -- that's another column -- LeBron is the franchise.
And if the King seeks a new castle come July, the Cavaliers aren't the Cavaliers. Not the same Cavaliers they've been the last seven years. They're a glamour franchise right now nearly on par with the Los Angeles Lakers ... in Cleveland.
But don't think LeBron did this alone. The impact of coaching can't be ignored, and for all the critics of Brown's low-key approach and lack of in-game adjustments, his record speaks for itself. He enjoyed too much success, even with the playoff shortfalls, not to get another chance. Brown will be on the sidelines again.
Ferry won't stay unemployed long unless he wants to. As he told David Aldridge, he'd consider another job in the NBA or might be content spending some time with the family while the dust settles. The job he's done in Cleveland leaves quite a legacy.
Ferry continuously pushed the envelope in acquiring players to build around James. Antawn Jamison, Shaquille O'Neal, Mo Williams, Delonte West, J.J. Hickson lead the pack of those brought on board by Ferry. The Cavaliers enjoyed the most successful five-year run in club history under Ferry's guidance, winning 272 games and reaching at least the East semifinals each year, including a trip to The Finals in 2007.
So where does this leave the Cavaliers in respect to LeBron? Holding more leverage than any athlete in the history of American pro sports, James has to have an acute understanding of any move going on behind the scenes. He has to.
Whether or not LeBron actually hand picks the next coach is just the start. The fact that he can steer Gilbert in just about any direction on just about any issue -- coaching, roster decisions, front office -- to assure his return is a muscle no 25-year-old free agent has ever flexed.
Don't think for a second that the Bulls or Nets, both currently sans coach, wouldn't bend over backboards to give James and his team of advisors unprecedented say so in the setup of their organizations. The Knicks aren't going to leave any stone unturned.
So facing competition from all corners, you can't fault Gilbert for backing up a Brinks truck of promises at LeBron's front door. Gilbert also needs to make sure everyone in the organization is 100 percent behind the LeBron Plan, whatever it is.
Ferry wasn't anymore. He felt uneasy with dismissing the coach he hired, and has watched Gilbert take on a more active role in day-to-day operations, further comprising his sphere of influence. Ferry stated publicly before firing Brown that his goal was to continue to build a championship organization under Gilbert. Clearly, Ferry's role in that project had changed. Gilbert, though, wasn't about to dismiss all the progress that's been made.
Ferry's right hand man, Chris Grant, has already assumed general manager duties. Grant is well-respected within the league and qualified. He's turned down the GM job in Atlanta two years ago, despite getting his NBA start with the Hawks, to stay with Ferry.
While Grant figures to be his own man and provide a sense of continuity, he certainly can't wield the same power as Ferry or question any of Gilbert's moves with the same doggedness as a first-time GM. LeBron, like it or not, can.
Gilbert said Friday that losing Brown and Ferry were essential in the franchise's quest for its first title. He called it "calculated" risk, but one he felt good about. Gilbert also added he's been in touch with LeBron, who acknowledged that the Cavaliers are the favorites to retain his services.
Gilbert added there's also no rush to get a coach in place by July 1. Why hurry? There is someone much more important to satisfy first.
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