The most successful coach in Cavaliers history is returning just three years after the team fired him.
Mike Brown is going home again.
Brown and the Cavaliers have reached a handshake agreement on a deal that will return Brown as the Cavs’ coach, a league source told the Akron Beacon Journal on Tuesday. The team made the hiring official in an emailed statement Wednesday. They also announced the news conference will be at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The Internet news site Yahoo! Sports reported the fifth year will contain a buyout and total compensation will be in excess of $20 million.
The Los Angeles Times reported Brown’s deal with the Cavs will provide the Lakers some relief (perhaps half) of the roughly $7 million they still owe him.
An official announcement of Brown’s hiring in Cleveland was expected Wednesday with an afternoon press conference to follow.
Brown’s .653 winning percentage ranks sixth all time (minimum 450 games) among NBA coaches. His hiring marks a fascinating return to the organization that fired him just three years ago in a futile attempt to keep LeBron James in Cleveland.
Brown’s record is 314-167 in parts of seven seasons and his team has reached the playoffs and won their first round series in each of his six full seasons. Brown was fired five games into this season by the Los Angeles Lakers, but returns to a Cavs team that has spent the last three years rebuilding under Byron Scott, who was fired last week after compiling a 64-166 record.
Brown might be returning to Cleveland, but this is hardly the same roster he left. With Daniel Gibson expected to depart in free agency, Anderson Varejao will be the only holdover from Brown’s time here.
Brown immediately emerged as the leading candidate to replace Scott shortly after General Manager Chris Grant described the Cavs’ next coach as defensive minded and a grinder. The Cavs reached out to Phil Jackson in recent days and contacted a few other candidates, a second league source confirmed, but Brown is believed to be the only candidate to interview for the opening.
Brown met with Cavs officials Sunday night near owner Dan Gilbert’s home in Detroit, and the two sides worked quickly to complete a deal.
Wednesday’s press conference will mark an intriguing reunion between Gilbert, Brown and Grant — Brown and Grant have been close friends since college. Gilbert, in so many words, is expected to admit at the press conference the organization made a mistake in firing Brown three years ago.
The Cavs enjoyed seasons of 66 and 61 wins under Brown, whose defensive schemes took the Cavs to the NBA Finals in 2007. Led by James’ dominance, the organization enjoyed its most successful stretch of basketball with Brown in charge.
His lack of creativity on offense has been an ongoing concern, but his teams typically rank among the best in the league defensively. Grant and Gilbert have been unhappy with the progress the Cavs have made defensively since Brown was fired.
The Cavs intended to move quickly on a replacement all along, according to sources, because so many coaching vacancies are expected this summer.
ESPN.com reported the Phoenix Suns reached out to Brown to gauge his interest in recent days and CBS Sports identified Brown as a top candidate for the Philadelphia 76ers’ vacancy.
Now the attention turns to 2014 and James’ impending free agency. The split between James and Brown appeared bitter in 2010, although team sources insist there was still a respect level between the two.
James has the opportunity to return to the Cavs next summer, but no one knows how the return of Brown will impact that. ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported on Tuesday that Brown’s presence would not be a deterrent to James if he chooses to return.
“I’m happy for him, very happy for him,” James said prior to the Miami Heat’s playoff game on Tuesday. “I think he’s a really good coach. Very defensive-minded coach. It will be good for those young guys that they have.”
For now, the Cavaliers have their new coach in place. It’s their old one. Now they’ll go to work trying to recreate the success he had the first time he was here.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.