Musselman might fit Cavs' mold

April 22, 2013

If things don’t work out with Mike Brown or Phil Jackson, the Cavaliers may want to give a shout to Eric Musselman.

The Cavs, of course, are looking for a coach after firing Byron Scott last week.

It’s been a while since Musselman coached an NBA team, but that shouldn’t matter. If Cavs general manager Chris Grant really is looking for “a worker, a grinder” as Grant indicated … well, Musselman fits the profile.

After all, Musselman has unofffically coached all 30 NBA teams (more on that in a minute).

First, let’s start with the basics.

Musselman, 48, is a native of Ashland, Ohio, and a product of Brecksville High. His father, the late Bill Musselman, coached the Cavaliers in the early 1980s and the Minnesota Timberwolves after that.

Eric Musselman is friends with Grant, both having played for coach Hank Egan at the University of San Diego. In fact, when Musselman was hired as coach by the Golden State Warriors (2002), he offered Grant a job on his staff.

Grant turned it down, instead recommending another San Diego product, David Fizdale -- and that’s who Musselman hired.

Fizdale is now an assistant with the Miami Heat, and considered a potential candidate for the Cavs job.

Anyway, back to Musselman.

He spent this past season as an assistant under Herb Sendek at Arizona State. Before that, Musselman was the 2012 D-League Coach of the Year. He led the Los Angeles D-Fenders to a 38-12 record, the best finish in league history.

Along with all that, Musselman coached the Warriors for two years, the Sacramento Kings for another (2006-07), and has assisted the likes of Doc Rivers in Orlando and former Cavs coach Mike Fratello in Memphis.

So, what about Musselman coaching all 30 teams?

Well, that’s what he did (along with commentary on D-League broadcasts) during the time he was unemployed following his stint with the Kings.

Musselman made index cards of every NBA team, formulated a practice plan for each, and “coached” each team’s games, picking one team a week. He went through the entire league, in alphabetical order.

In other words, Musselman wrote out a practice plan for the Atlanta Hawks in week one, and focused solely on managing their games while watching on NBA League Pass. The next week, he moved on to the Boston Celtics. On and on it went.

That’s dedication, that’s working, that’s grinding.

Beyond the numbers

Now, you may look at Musselman’s overall NBA record (108-138) and be unimpressed. But when you consider the personnel on those Warriors and Kings teams, it was actually quite an accomplishment.

Musselman interviewed with the Cavs once before, back in 2005 when he went to dinner with majority owner Dan Gilbert. Musselman admired Gilbert’s passion and understands and appreciates the Cavs’ current building plan, centered around young star Kyrie Irving, and Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters.

He once said one of the primary responsibilities of a coach is "continually figuring out a way to get your players better."

He’s received praised from former D-Leaguers who made it to the NBA, such as Indiana swingman Gerald Green.

“He did a hell of a job really motivating me, really pushing me every day in practice when I was with LA,” Green said. “I have to give him credit.”

Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin and Oklahoma City guard Kevin Martin have also spoken highly of Musselman’s approach.

It’s true Musselman hasn’t run an NBA team in seven years. It’s true he’s never been to the Finals or even the playoffs. It’s true he wouldn’t make the splash of a Brown or Jackson -- two candidates the Cavs are believed to have already contacted.

But Musselman fits the mold Grant said he’s seeking, and is the type of teacher and devoted coach who just might serve a developing team well.

Twitter: @SamAmicoFSO