A person with knowledge of the situation tells The Associated Press the Cavaliers and Mike Brown are near an agreement to bring him back to Cleveland for a second time.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because negotiations were ongoing.
Brown went 272-138 and went to the playoffs all five of his years with the Cavs, teaming with LeBron James on a run to the NBA Finals in 2007. He was fired after a loss to Boston in the conference semifinals in 2010, spent one full season with the Lakers and was then fired by Los Angeles five games into this season.
Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert hired Byron Scott to replace Brown. Scott was fired last week after three seasons following a 24-win season and with one year left on his contract. Scott was strapped with a young, inexperienced squad but Gilbert didn’t think the Cavs made adequate progress with him so he’s on the verge of handing his team back over to the same coach he fired three years ago.
Brown’s return to Cleveland wouldn’t really be all that surprising.
The Cavs wanted a successful, defensive-minded coach and they had their greatest success in five seasons under Brown, who was certainly helped by having LeBron James on his teams. But he has made the playoffs in all six seasons as an NBA head coach, and shown the ability to develop younger players during his first stint with Cleveland.
Brown helped the Cavs make the NBA finals in 2007 and they were in the playoffs in all five seasons with the 43-year-old, who was an assistant with Indiana before Gilbert hired him in 2005. The Cavs won at least 45 games each season during Brown’s tenure and went 66-16 in 2008-09 when he was named NBA Coach of the Year.
His teams in Cleveland always played solid defense, ranking among the top in most categories. James has credited Brown with making him a better defensive player and getting him to understand the importance of defending the basket. Brown, though, was criticized for a stagnant offense that too often relied simply on James’ marvelous athletic skills, especially late in games.
Brown was fired by Gilbert after the Cavs were beaten in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals by Boston. James was accused of quitting on the team during that series and there was tension in the final weeks between the league MVP and his coach.
But Brown’s firing was more about Gilbert trying to make James happy and persuade him to re-sign, a strategy that ultimately didn’t work when the superstar left Cleveland as a free agent for Miami.
Brown left Cleveland on good terms, which would take some of the awkwardness out of his return. He has been close friends with general manager Chris Grant since college and he and Gilbert were mostly in sync.
Even before Scott’s firing, which seemed inevitable as the Cavs staggered to the end of the season by losing 16 of their last 18, Brown planned to move his family back to the Cleveland area. He’ll be closer to his oldest son, who will be a freshman basketball player at Butler next season and his younger son intends to finish high school with friends he made when his dad previously coached the Cavs.
Brown would inherit a team with a bright future. As long as he can stay healthy, All-Star guard Kyrie Irving will only improve and in Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller, the Cavs have a solid nucleus.
Cleveland has two first-round picks in June’s NBA draft, the team has plenty of salary-cap space and Grant said last week that he intends to be aggressive in free agency this summer.