Golden State’s Mike Brown will coach the NBA Finals against the team that fired him. Twice. And if goes as expected, he’ll be beating the Cavaliers while they’re busy paying him.
Clearly the basketball gods have jokes this year. “I just look at it as an opportunity. I have a lot of history in Cleveland, personally,’’ .
“To me, it’s bigger than that. “The group of guys I’m working with are tremendous. It’s a player’s league.
And at this point of the year, if you have the right guys, you’re clicking and you’re healthy, you’re going to have a chance to win. I don’t know right now if I have any emotions about going back coaching there. I’m really just trying to make it into this being the next round.
Obviously, it’s special to me because it is the Finals. ” Brown, 47, was in two terms as Cleveland’s head coach. That didn’t stop the Cavaliers from firing him in 2014 with four years and $20 million left on his contract.
He landed as lead assistant in Golden State, where he has repeatedly lauded coach Steve Kerr, saying after sweeping San Antonio in the Western Conference finals “It starts with Steve Kerr. He’s our head coach, he’s our leader. ” But with Kerr sidelined indefinitely with chronic back woes, it’s Brown that’s steered the Warriors into the finals.
Against the Cavaliers, and against LeBron James, largely viewed as being culpable in Brown getting ousted in the first place. Brown won NBA Coach of the Year honors in after leading the Cavs to a record. But after Cleveland got knocked out in the second round the next year and James — a pending free agent — griped about Brown’s offense and lack of transition, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert had ten days to decide whether to fire Brown or keep him and pay him his full contract.
Gilbert fired him after 9 despite a mark. And while some around the team say James didn’t order it, they acknowledge he certainly could’ve stopped it and didn’t lift a finger to. “We were good.
LeBron was young. We never really had a second guy who was a perennial second guy besides LeBron. That made it tough from time to time the deeper we got into the playoffs,’’ Brown told the Undefeated.
“The guys we did have were tremendous individuals and did work their tails off. They just found ways to win games. “We were both running and grinding together.
I felt like I helped him grow and he definitely helped me grow. ” Later that offseason, James ended up taking his talents to South Beach and leading Miami to four straight NBA Finals, winning two of them. Gilbert hired Brown back for the season, but the Cavs went just before he fired Brown again that May.
That summer James made his return to Cleveland. Brown has largely lived in the Cleveland area since, and has said his sons Elijah and Cameron view it as home. He even helped coach Cameron’s high school football team, and — when he could — took flights back from the Bay Area to go to Cameron’s games this season at Case Western Reserve University.
“I didn’t hang out much in downtown Cleveland or inside of Cleveland. We lived out in West Lake on the West Side of Cleveland. That’s where my boys went to school.
So, I still got ties out there. My tax guy is out there. My financial guy is out there,’’ said Brown, who still has more of the Cavs’ money to invest.
He said he may even swing by to see his eye doctor while the Warriors are in town. “The restaurants, and all that on the West Side. The place I got a lot of my glasses from the past few years, I’m still waiting on them,” Brown said.