Maybe not directly, but by refusing to take Mike Brown seriously, laughing at him after tough losses, and quitting on him in Games 5 & 6 against the Celtics ... close enough.
The Cavs kicked Mike Brown to the curb Sunday. Had to happen — I've never seen a team so openly quit on a coach as the Cavs in Game 6 against the Celtics. Down by nine in the last game of the year, with Brown bouncing on the sidelines wind-milling his arms as the game clock ran below two minutes, the Cavs refused to foul to stop the clock and didn't bother to try to push upcourt for shots as their season died.
It was sad, it was ugly, and it was clearly a fuck-you to Brown from the team — and especially from its leader, LeBron James.
Mike Brown's a great guy — funny, sunny, humble, hard-working, even-keeled, and smart. But he was completely, and obviously, outcoached the past two post-seasons. He lost the thread totally against the Celtics, running players in and out seemingly at random in Games 5 and 6 — and he lost his team, too.
You could see it begin after Game 2, when the Cavs lost at home by 18 points and Brown spoke afterward, with fury, about his team's lack of focus and effort — he even said "goddamn," which is more than I'd ever heard Brown curse before. But when LeBron met the media — with Brown back in the locker room — he literally chuckled when asked about Brown's anger. LBJ played it off like it was news to him — maybe it was — and played off the loss itself as no big deal.
Mike Brown liked to say he was thankful to be coaching LeBron, grateful to LeBron for letting him be his coach. It always sounded weird and weak — imagine Phil Jackson or Pat Riley or almost any other head coach or manager in pro sports speaking publicly that way about a young player in his charge. If LBJ ever returned that love, I never heard it.
Frankly, I'm not sure that LeBron needs more adulation, especially from his boss. In fact, I'm certain that he doesn't. As a high-schooler, he thrived while playing for a fiery prick, a break-'em-down-to-build-'em-up type. I doubt that shit'd fly anywhere in the NBA today, but there's no doubt in my mind that what James needs to succeed is a strong daddy running his team.
Scott Raab is a graduate of Cleveland State University and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has been a Writer at Large for Esquire magazine since 1997. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and son.
More Stories You Might Like from Esquire.com