No one should be shocked that Cleveland cleaned house after the Cavaliers lost in the playoffs. Especially now-former GM Danny Ferry.
Nobody should have believed that Mike Brown and Danny Ferry were going to keep their jobs after the Cavs shit the bed in the playoffs again. Dan Gilbert, the Cavs owner, gave Ferry total control over the team and an essentially unlimited budget. Brown was Ferry's guy. Ferry and Brown had LeBron James and five years to deliver a championship. The closest they came was one Finals appearance, where the Cavs were swept.
That was three seasons ago.
I've spent a fair amount of time talking with Dan Gilbert, and his affection and respect for both Ferry and Brown seemed genuine. But when I asked him about the fact that this was going to be the final year of Ferry's contract, and the last guaranteed season of Brown's, Gilbert just smiled and said, "We're all in." It was no secret that the whole stack of chips, including the coach and GM, was riding on this season.
While it's absurd to speculate about whether Gilbert consulted James about booting Brown and Ferry, it's fair to say — and it has long been obvious — that the entire organization has catered to LeBron in every possible way from the start of his NBA career. But that says less about James and the Cavs than it does about the league, whose superstars exercise far more clout on and off the court than in any other pro sport.
James would've been glad to see Mike Brown canned after the Orlando series last season; by the end of this year's debacle against the Celtics, he was openly complaining that nobody on the Cavs coaching staff had enough NBA battlefield experience to help guide the team to victory. Fact is — and it doesn't absolve him of responsibility for his own choke artistry — he was right: Mike Brown had nobody with him on the sideline who could command any respect based on fighting and winning playoff wars in the NBA. One assistant coach, Chris Jent, does have a ring. He won it in '94 with the Houston Rockets, where he logged a whopping sixty-two minutes in 11 playoff games. As for the befuddled Brown himself, his own bench players were laughing at him as he tried to match wits and rotations with Doc Rivers and the Boston onslaught
Oh, yeah — Danny Ferry won a ring, too, at age 36, as the 11th guy off the Spurs' bench. He spent his first decade in the league as an albatross around the neck of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who traded Ron Harper and two first-round draft choices for the right to sign Ferry, and then snookered him into signing a 10-year, $34 million contract — each year and every dollar guaranteed. In his first five seasons, Ferry started 11 games for the Cavs. As for Harper, he won five rings with the Lakers and the Bulls, all while playing for Phil Jackson.
Maybe someone can give Dan Gilbert Harper's cell number.
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.
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