INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — With the Cavaliers having fired Byron Scott on Thursday, they may turn to an old friend to lead the team in the direction they believe it should be headed.
Multiple sources familiar with the Cavs’ thinking have told FOX Sports Ohio that former coach Mike Brown has emerged as a real possibility to replace Scott.
Brown coached the Cavs during the LeBron James era (2005-10) and is close with general manager Chris Grant, both of whom played at the University of San Diego.
Grant remains a fan of Brown, sources said, and Brown is moving back to Cleveland following a stint as coach of the Lakers. He coached the Lakers for all of the lockout-shortened season (66 games), but was fired just five games into this year.
Besides his close ties to Grant and familiarity with the organization, Brown is known for his strong defensive philosophy — an area in which the Cavs were severely lacking under Scott.
Earlier this season, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert hinted via his Twitter account that when the Cavs return to relevancy, it will be because of their defense.
While questions surrounded Brown’s creativity on offense during his runs in Cleveland and Los Angeles, there were never any doubts about his ability to get a team to bend its knees, shuffle its feet and defend.
“Once I heard he’s moving back (to the Cleveland area), I just assumed he’s their guy,” one league source said of Brown.
Brown compiled a 272-138 record with the Cavs and is 314-167 overall. He was selected NBA Coach of the Year following the 2008-09 season and led the Cavs to their lone Finals appearance in 2007 (4-0 series loss to San Antonio).
But the Cavs fired Brown in the summer of 2010, shortly before James made his free-agent decision to leave the organization for Miami.
Brown, of course, is not the only name being mentioned across the league. FOX Sports Ohio sources also brought up several other names as possibilities to become the Cavs’ next coach. Those mentioned repeatedly:
• David Fizdale. Like Grant and Brown, the current Heat assistant attended San Diego. Fizdale also owns one championship ring under Erik Spoelstra, and seems well on his way to another.
• Flip Saunders. A Cleveland native and former Ohio Mr. Basketball, Saunders was a head coach on and off since 1995, spending time with Minnesota, Detroit and Washington. But Saunders’ biggest appeal to the Cavs may be the fact his best buddy is Michigan State coach Tom Izzo — whom the Cavs heavily courted before hiring Scott in 2010.
• Mike Malone. The Golden State assistant was an assistant under Brown in Cleveland. And when it comes to assistants who are primed for a head coaching gig, no name in NBA circles is mentioned more than Malone.
• Scott Skiles. The former Phoenix and Milwaukee coach played at Michigan State. You can’t discount that when you’re talking about Cavs owner and MSU alum Dan Gilbert.
• Brian Shaw. Now an assistant with the Pacers, Shaw’s name is always mentioned when there’s a head coaching vacancy. The Cavs also displayed interest in Shaw before hiring Scott.
• Eric Musselman. The Arizona State assistant is another guy with San Diego ties, and Musselman once coached Golden State and Sacramento. He’s a product of nearby Brecksville and he too is close with Grant. In addition, Musselman’s late father Bill once coached the Cavs.
• Other names brought up by FSO sources include former Miami and Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy, and former Seattle and Portland coach Nate McMillan.