Cavs happy to bring back their former coach

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Mike Brown admitted it was surreal, and Dan Gilbert admitted he was rectifying a mistake.

The Cavs owner said Wednesday when Brown was (re-)introduced as the Cavs coach that “for sure it was a mistake” to fire Brown in the summer of LeBron’s departure in 2010.

He added he was happy he could “rectify” that mistake.

He said hindsight has proven it to be the wrong decision, made with much indecision about the franchise’s future given James’ free agency.

Now there’s almost as much uncertainty, but this shakiness is caused by three miserable losing seasons following James’ decision to join the Miami Heat.

Gilbert called these seasons “extremely painful and difficult.”

“We all knew it was going to happen; we knew we had to go through this,” Gilbert said. “But that’s the price and pain you pay to establish a long-term successful run, a run that lasts seven, eight years or more.”

Enter Brown, who would win now and win big if winning depended on the quality of the person. It’s tough to find a better man in any sport than Brown, and his news conference included as many personal greetings as questions. That may give him a longer honeymoon with folks who know him, but it won’t guarantee wins for a franchise that needs them.

The Cavs welcomed back a coach who wants to be in Cleveland and a coach who loved his time in Cleveland.

“I chose to come here,” he said.

It is a bit bizarre to bring back a guy who was fired a few years ago — “I’m not trying to do a George Steinbrenner imitation here,” Gilbert said — but it’s no more bizarre than said person wanting to come back and work for an owner who showed him the door.

There’s nothing quite like Cleveland sports.

With Brown, there’s nothing like hiring a coach with the same baggage he had when fired.

Defensive coach.

Wonderful human being.

What about his offense?

That was the word on him when he was let go. That’s the word on him now that he’s back.

Brown promised a return to a defense-first system, and GM Chris Grant pointed out that no team has won an NBA title that did not rank in the top 12 in defensive field-goal percentage.

There was little discussion about offense.

Brown touted the team’s talented roster, which is debatable.

He said he wants to be in Cleveland, which is greatly appreciated. And he said the team’s mantra is “commitment to the journey,” which ended with him dropping the “process” word on everyone, which isn’t exactly the most popular word in these parts in these days.

But the Cavs’ process of rebuilding post-LeBron has taken some time. Gilbert implied he understood it would take this much time. And Brown takes over a roster that not only lacks a superstar of the James/Kobe Bryant mold, it lacks a winning mindset after three losing seasons.

Brown said he’s jacked up for the challenge, but the challenge will be far more significant than his first tenure — unless somehow LeBron becomes the second prodigal son in 2014.

Can Brown coach?

Definitely. To think he isn’t a good coach is silly. If it was Mike Broom arriving with the sixth highest winning percentage in NBA history (three seasons or more of coaching), folks might be more pleased. Brown has never missed the playoffs, never lost in the first round. He instills a defensive system that works.

The Cavs twice topped 60 wins under Brown, and James was a huge part of that. But the Heat’s first season shows that superstars do not always guarantee silly amounts of wins.

Brown. Can. Coach.

But winning comes down to players, and how the players are used.

If a team doesn’t have the right players or enough good players, it won’t win.

Right now, the Cavs don’t have enough good players. And while Gilbert danced around a question about James’ return and whether the hire had anything to do with that possibility by saying nobody knows what will happen, he and Grant both admitted it’s time to get real with winning.

The last three seasons have been bleak. It’s good to have a winning coach back who wants to be back.

But if the Cavs are playing for the offseason of 2014, they won’t win much in 2013-14.