INDEPENDENCE — The Cavaliers aren’t necessarily looking for someone with NBA head coaching experience. They won’t rule out hiring a college coach. And guard Kyrie Irving won’t get to pick who succeeds Mike Brown.
That was the word Tuesday from new general manager David Griffin at a news conference at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
“We’re not going to rule out any coach at any level,” Griffin said. “College experience will not be something that is ruled out. (Not) being a head coach in the NBA in the past will not be something that is ruled out. We’re going to be very open-minded in that way.”
Brown was fired Monday after going 33-49 in the first and only season of his second stint with the Cavs. He had a five-year contract for $20 million, the first four years of which were fully guaranteed.
Griffin became somewhat animated when asked if Irving — he can sign a contract extension this summer and never really seemed to develop a solid relationship with Brown — or any other Cleveland players had anything to do with Brown’s firing.
“Any insinuation that Kyrie had anything to do with this decision is patently false,” Griffin said.
“It’s unfair. He was not counseled on this decision, nor was he counseled on the previous coaching decision. It’s a completely unfair assertion and one that I want everyone to understand very clearly. That is not a narrative that we are going to go with.
“It’s a situation that was unquestionably collaborative,” he added. “You are only as strong as the relationship that exists as an organization and you’re only as strong as the relationship that exists between ownership, the front office and coaching. We have to move together in lockstep and that’s what we’re going to do from this day on.”
Griffin, who said the franchise still needs to “augment” its front office, would not discuss possible coaching candidates or even the attributes he is seeking.
Mark Jackson, Alvin Gentry, Mike D’Antoni, Steve Kerr, Lionel Hollins and Vinny Del Negro are among former NBA head coaches who have been mentioned in connection with the opening. College coaches Kevin Ollie and Fred Hoiberg, both former NBA players, are also possibilities, as is Bulls assistant and
former NBA player Adrian Griffin.
David Griffin hopes to contact some candidates at a pre-draft camp that runs today through Friday in Chicago and arrange interviews, but said he has no timetable for hiring a coach.
“We do not feel this is a race,” he said. “This is not about being first. This is about getting it right.”
Brown’s successor will be the Cavs’ third coach in three years, but Griffin disputed the notion that the organization lacks stability. The coaching changes, he said, are due more to “a lack of fit.”
“Fit extends to every decision we make,” he said. “It extends to what we’re going to do to augment our front office, it extends to what we’re going to do to augment our roster.
“From a stability standpoint, we have the complete confidence of ownership to deliver those things. That’s all you can ask for as a franchise is that stability. We have that backing completely.”
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who hired Brown along with former GM Chris Grant, was not at the press conference because his schedule didn’t allow it, Griffin said.
“I intend to lead this process,” Griffin said. “I asked for (ownership’s) trust and faith in that, and I think they’ve shown it. Dan and his ownership group are involved and incredibly available.
“This will be a collaborative effort,” he added. “I will not make any decision alone. But I will absolutely be leading this process, and I’m really excited about building a relationship with that coach.”
Griffin, who spent 17 seasons with the Phoenix Suns before joining the Cavs in 2010, favors an up-tempo game, but knows successful teams need to be balanced.
“I’ve had a primarily offensive-based focus with the people I was raised by,” the 44-year-old said. “I think it’s fair to say the Cavaliers have had a defensive focus. What excited me most about coming here is that I believe you find the truth in the middle.
“No franchise that’s incredibly well run is all one thing. We need to find a way to speak to the best of all parts of the offensive background I know, the defensive background that’s dyed in the wool of this franchise. Ownership believes in defense, I believe in offense, and there’s a truth in the middle.
We’re going to find it.”
As he did at a press conference a week after the season ended, Griffin reiterated his belief the Cavs have talent and assets — the franchise can get $26 million under the salary cap fairly easily — but said the team’s pieces aren’t necessarily a good fit at the moment.
He referred to Irving and Dion Waiters as “ball-dominant, drive-and-kick creators” and said the Cavs need to open the floor for them and surround them with better shooters.
“There certainly are some pieces that don’t fit on this roster and there are some things we need to add to our roster,” he said. “This is not a complete product. This won’t be a complete product until we’re winning all the time. It never is. You’re always going to be tweaking.
“But I believe because of the cap space we have, the (draft) pick situation we find ourselves in and the young talent we have, we’re going to be very attractive as a partner when we do look for targeted pieces.”
In addition to improved shooting and players who fit together better, Griffin mentioned getting bigger, smarter and tougher when listing five things the Cavs need to do.
“This is a golden opportunity,” he said. “If this had been a perfect situation, I wouldn’t be sitting in front of you right now. This is an opportunity for all of us to get better, to turn over every stone, to pursue everything we possibly can in the hunt for success.
“We’re going to do that, and I’ve been placed in a position now where I’m going to lead that charge. I can’t be more excited. But no, that’s not pressure-packed. That’s what we all do this for. That’s why we all take these jobs, because we’re competitors. We seek these challenges. We’re energized by it.”
- Griffin will represent the Cavs onstage at the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday. Nick Gilbert, Dan Gilbert’s son, was onstage the previous three seasons. The Cavs got the No. 1 pick (Irving, Anthony Bennett) twice.
- Jeff Cohen, a minority owner, will represent the team backstage where the picks are actually drawn. Dan and Nick Gilbert will not attend the event.
- Bennett underwent tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy procedures at the Cleveland Clinic. Both were elective and pre-planned to allow for proper healing in time for full preparation and participation in the upcoming NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.