Griff Grabs the Reigns

Cavaliers Make it Official, Tab Griffin as New GM
Cavaliers GM David Griffin speaks with a group of Cavs employees and corporate partners at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

The Cavaliers officially confirmed one front office position on Tuesday morning – removing the “acting” tag and naming David Griffin the club’s general manager – but they still head into the summer with a big spot to fill.

On the same day the Wine and Gold made Griffin’s position permanent, the franchise released Head Coach Mike Brown after a one-year return to the sidelines in Cleveland. Brown went 305-187 in his first incarnation with the Cavaliers in 2005-10, but finished the 2013-14 campaign with a 33-49 mark – good for 10th in the Eastern Conference.

The way Cleveland’s season split might have factored into the decision on both men. The Cavs struggling through a 16-33 start – including a 10-21 record after the first two months. After a particularly painful home loss to the Lakers on February 5 – capping a six-game losing streak – the franchise released then GM Chris Grant.

After Griffin replaced Grant, the Cavaliers ran off six straight wins and proceeded to close out the season with a 17-16 mark – going 9-7 on the road and making a run at the postseason in the final weeks of the campaign.

Unfortunately for Griffin, one of his first duties as GM included having to make a difficult decision on a good man.

“This is not about anything that anyone has done wrong,” Griffin stated. “This is about moving forward as a collective and being in unison and lockstep as we do so. What was done was in an effort to make sure we make as great strides as possible to reach the level of success that's necessary.”

Griffin spent 17 seasons with the Phoenix Suns, the last three as the team’s senior VP of Basketball Operations after being named to that position in 2007. Griffin joined the Suns in 1997 and performed various roles with the team including assistant general manager of player personnel, director of player personnel and assistant director of player personnel. He was groomed under former Cavalier, Steve Kerr, and was part of a Suns team that reached three Conference Finals.

Part of his experience with Phoenix included an assignment he’ll be charged with right out of the gate.

“I was involved with Steve Kerr in the coaching search when we replaced Mike D'Antoni as head coach,” recalled Griff. “That was a process that was very deep, I would say. It involved meeting with as many as ten candidates and getting serious and thorough with four. That, I think was an experience that I learned a great deal from. In some cases what to do, and in some cases what not to do.

“So I can't say that we did that flawlessly, but I know we tried. We went at it with the right approach, and I intend to build on that experience.”

Griff insisted that there’s no distinct timetable on hiring a new coach, but that the Cavs are hoping to talk to some candidates this week in Chicago during pre-Draft workouts. He also maintained that the hiring process will be a team effort between the front office and ownership and reiterated his philosophy that an organization “only as strong as the relationship that exists between ownership, the front office and coaching.”

Griffin maintained that hiring the Cavaliers 19th head coach in team history “will be a collaborative effort. I will not make any decision alone. But I will absolutely be leading this process, and I am really excited about building a relationship with that coach.”

The Cavs new GM also talked about meshing his offensive philosophy – honed during his time with the high-octane Suns – with ownership’s emphasis on defense.

“No franchise that's incredibly well run is all one thing,” reasoned Griff. “We need to find a way to speak to the best of all parts of the offensive background. I know the defensive background that's dyed in the wool of this franchise. Ownership believes in defense, I believe in offense, and there is the truth in the middle. We're going to find that.”

Of course, Griffin’s new task isn’t simply to find his new coach. It’s to work with and possibly reshape a roster that’s spent the past four seasons on the outside of this postseason. And, from the moment he was named acting GM, Griff hasn’t wavered from the five key elements he’s searching for in players – toughness, basketball IQ, size to position, shooting and overall fit.

“As we talked about at the end of season meeting, those five things haven't changed,” said Griffin. “Nothing has changed in the last two days to change my philosophy to that. We need to be bigger, we need to be smarter from a basketball IQ standpoint. I'd like us to be a team that's recognized as being tougher. I'd like us to be a better shooting team, and we need to address our fit. Those things have not changed. If anything, our commitment to those five things has strengthened.”

With their new GM in the fold, the Cavaliers will now turn their attention to their new head coach. The NBA Lottery takes place next Tuesday the 20th and the Draft goes down one month later – on June 26 (followed by free agency and Summer League).

In other words, it’s going to be a busy, interesting and exciting offseason for the Wine and Gold.

Buckle up.

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