INDEPENDENCE — Everyone and their brother, including Jeff and Stan Van Gundy, is likely to be mentioned as a candidate for the Cavaliers’ vacant head coaching position.
Cavs general manager Chris Grant, who is looking for a defensive-minded coach with a history of success, is likely to move quickly when it comes to finding Byron Scott’s successor, but that won’t stop the rumors and campaigning.
Tons of names — Michael Malone, Chris Jent, David Fizdale, Brian Shaw, Nate McMillan, Mike Brown, Flip Saunders, Scott Skiles, Mike Dunleavy, Avery Johnson, Lawrence Frank, Phil Jackson and, yes, the brothers Van Gundy — will be mentioned as candidates.
It’s possible the Cavs’ next head coach isn’t on this beginning list, but here’s a bit more information on rumored candidates, with the men who appear to be the most viable options listed first:
Brown: Now 43, Brown was Cleveland’s coach for LeBron James’ final five seasons, then spent a little more than one season in charge of the Los Angeles Lakers, who fired him five games into this season.
Brown’s lifetime record is 314-167. He led the Cavs to the 2007 NBA Finals and was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2008-09, when Cleveland went 66-16. After posting a 61-21 record in 2009-10, he was fired when the Cavs lost to Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Brown is all about defense and preaches it constantly, but that didn’t prevent the Cavs from getting torn apart by Orlando’s Dwight Howard and four 3-point shooters in the 2009 Eastern Conference finals.
A devout family man, Brown had been house-hunting again in Westlake before Scott was fired and has confirmed he’d be willing to listen if the Cavs want to talk to him about the job.
It may seem strange that the Cavs would consider hiring the man they fired right before hiring Scott, but owner Dan Gilbert is a big Brown fan. In addition, Grant likes company men who fall in line and, at least publicly, do and say exactly what the organization wants. That’s Brown.
Brown also seemed to have a pretty solid relationship with James, who can opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat in July 2014, but a certain disconnect appeared to develop toward the end of their time together.
McMillan: The 48-year-old is a no-nonsense type who could emerge as a leading candidate. He has a combined 12 years of head coaching experience with Portland and Seattle, posting a 478-452 record. His teams made the playoffs five times, but got past the first round just once. A former point guard, McMillan can relate to today’s players while still making it clear who is in charge.
Malone: The son of former Cavs interim coach Brendan Malone, Michael Malone is the lead assistant on Mark Jackson’s staff in Golden State. He has no previous head coaching experience in the NBA, but has built a solid resume and is regarded as a very good defensive coach. He was Brown’s No. 1 defensive assistant during their time together in Cleveland, had a solid relationship with James and appears to be a viable candidate.
Fizdale: The 38-year-old is in his fifth season as an assistant with the Heat and previously coached with Atlanta and Golden State. He’s regarded as a young up-and-comer and has a great relationship with James. If he’s hired in Cleveland, buckle up, because the full-court press for James is on.
Shaw: The 47-year-old was a finalist for the Cavs job when Scott was hired and is associate head coach with the Indiana Pacers. A former point guard with the Lakers, Shaw is regarded by many as a certain NBA head coach, and it will probably happen soon.
Stan Van Gundy: The 53-year-old compiled a 579-371 record with Miami and Orlando, including leading the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals, but his personality and individuality might be a bit strong for Grant’s liking.
Jent: Like Michael Malone, Jent was on Brown’s staff in Cleveland before leaving to take a job under Thad Matta at Ohio State. He served as James’ personal shooting coach with the Cavs and the two developed a great relationship. The 43-year-old has no previous head coaching experience other than an 18-game stint as interim coach of the Orlando Magic in 2004-05.
Saunders: We are getting into coaches whose names will come up with every vacancy. We’re putting the 58-year-old Saunders first simply because he’s from Cuyahoga Heights. He has 16 years of head coaching experience, going 638-526 with Minnesota, Detroit and Washington.
Skiles: The 49-year-old has 13 years of head coaching experience, compiling a 443-433 record with Phoenix, Chicago and Milwaukee. He’s very competitive but sometimes comes across as surly and overbearing, which doesn’t appear to make him a great fit with Grant.
Frank: The 42-year-old has nine years of head coaching experience and a 279-335 career record. He was just fired by Detroit.
Dunleavy: The 59-year-old looks like the ultimate retread, having compiled a 613-716 record in 17 years as a head coach with the Lakers, Milwaukee, Portland and Los Angeles Clippers. Dunleavy last coached in 2010.
Johnson: The 48-year-old former point guard has a 254-186 record in seven seasons with Dallas and New Jersey/Brooklyn.
Jeff Van Gundy: The 51-year-old has a 430-318 record in 11 seasons with New York and Houston. There’s no question the network-television analyst can coach, but does he want to right now? And even if he wants to, does he want to in Cleveland?
Jackson: He’s 67 years old and Cleveland isn’t Los Angeles, but the guy’s name is going to come up a few times.
The first-round pick the Cavs got when the Lakers qualified for the playoffs wound up being No. 19 when the NBA held a drawing Friday to break a three-way tie between Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago. All three teams wound up with 45-37 records. The Rockets got the 18th pick, but that has already been traded to Atlanta (via Brooklyn). Chicago will pick 20th. Had the Lakers not made the playoffs, the Cavs would have received Miami’s first-round pick, which will be No. 30.
** The Cavs released two members of Scott’s coaching staff, lead assistant Paul Pressey and Joe Prunty.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.