Dan Gilbert is an owner with patience. He believes in loyalty, making tough decisions and setting expectations high. That more than anything else, including LeBron James, has made the Cavaliers a force to be reckoned with the past five years.
Bringing in Danny Ferry and Mike Brown were great decisions that resulted in a visit to the NBA finals in 2007 and the best record in NBA the last two years. High expectations lead to tough decisions. It became clear at the end of this season that something was missing with Mike Brown. He is a good organizational man. He puts his heart and soul into the job. He understands the game and is able to get a lot out of his players. Those are powerful reasons to keep him around.
Then what is missing?
The killer instinct, the take no prisoners, we are the best attitude. Against the best you must be at your best. It is quite obvious that Mike knows how to win against the lesser teams. His guys go in and beat the lesser teams game-in and game-out. The Cavaliers are evenly paced and can deliver over the long haul, but when it comes time to beat the best now, today, it isn’t there. In the NBA playoffs, there is no tomorrow! It is do or die today. Your life is on the line. Kill or be killed.
In game five of the 2007 NBA playoffs against Detroit, LeBron James delivered one of the most unbelievable performances in NBA history. The talent had to be there, but at that level of play, it was his will to win that carried the day. He had unbelievable heart. Wow!
Flash forward to game six of the 2010 NBA playoffs against the Celtics, he was steady and evenly paced. He knew what to do and how to do it, but the fire was gone. His heart was ripped out. The unmatched will to win was missing. He looked like he was carrying a burden. You can attribute that to the Mike Brown era.
Danny Ferry is shrewd, a top-notch NBA GM. He was a big reason; the Cavaliers were such a force the past two years. He made some great moves. I don’t know what happened behind the scenes between Dan & Dan, but it is clear that there was a falling out.
There are two likely scenarios, it could have been one or the other or both. The first is Ferry couldn’t let go of Mike Brown. When the heart and soul are deeply invested in something that doesn’t work out, there is the tendency to stay the course, to keep going down that path, which has come so close.
There is no doubt that Mike Brown is a very good NBA coach and that he was an excellent selection. He played a big role in bringing the team to the doors of the Promised Land—an NBA championship. Unfortunately, like Moses, he must die before his team can enter. Dan Gilbert recognized this and if Dan Ferry couldn’t he would have to leave too.
Which leads into the second scenario: Dan Gilbert began to second guess Dan Ferry’s decisions as a GM.
Ferry, as the basketball man, could easily have felt compromised, when his recommendations to keep Brown were ignored. It was easy for Gilbert to second guess his GM, because he didn’t deliver. Once Gilbert decided to let Brown go, it became important to acknowledge him for his accomplishments and clearly state his limitations. Pay him well and wish him the best in his future endeavors.
Then turn around and re-enforce Ferry’s ego. Acknowledge him for the outstanding moves he made. Then put Ferry in charge of making all the basketball decisions and put the future of the team in his capable hands, especially the hiring of the next coach. It was critical for Gilbert to pay Ferry for his contributions and pay him at the top of the GM pay scale and walk away from the entire decision making process.
This didn’t happen, and the Cavaliers have an inexperienced GM at the helm at the most critical juncture in NBA history. There is a potential for a huge shift in the balance of power in this NBA offseason and with Ferry at the helm, there was a good bet that Cleveland would come out on top.
The book is open. The page has turned, The new pages are ready to be written.