CLEVELAND — Mike Brown’s five successful seasons as Cavaliers coach ended awkwardly, with neither side certain it was the right move for him to be fired.
The breakup was a little messy.
It might be time to reconcile.
Brown is interested in returning for a second stint with the team, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Saturday. Brown, who went to the NBA Finals with the Cavs in 2007, is “receptive to the idea” of coaching in Cleveland again, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the sides have not yet discussed a possible return.
It is not known when the Cavs will contact Brown, who may be coveted by several other teams.
The Cavs are looking for a new coach after firing Byron Scott on Thursday following his third straight losing season. Scott was the one who replaced Brown in 2010, shortly after the Cavs were eliminated by Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals and weeks before LeBron James decided to leave as a free agent.
Brown went 272-138 and went to the playoffs every season with the Cavs, who won 66 and 61 games in his last two regular seasons.
The team’s decision to dismiss Brown following the ’10 season was made in part to try and appease James, whose final days with the Cavs were tension filled and included whispers by some he quit on the team during the Celtics series.
After the Cavs were eliminated, the club had 10 days to make a decision on his future or they would have had to pay Brown’s entire $4 million salary for the next season. The Cavs asked Brown to extend their window, but he refused and was let go on the 10th day. Brown didn’t want to risk waiting until later in the summer and then not having enough time to find a job if he was fired.
He wound up sitting out a season before he was hired by the Los Angeles Lakers. He spent one season in L.A. before he was fired five games into this season.
Brown left Cleveland on good terms with owner Dan Gilbert and he’s tight with general manager Chris Grant, a close friend since college. Earlier this week, Grant said the team’s new coach would have to be defensive-minded, a teacher, hard worker and “grinder,” and that would aptly describe the affable Brown, who stressed defense during his time with the Cavaliers.
Interestingly, Brown was already planning a move back from California to Cleveland long before Scott was fired. Brown and his wife, Carolyn, immersed themselves into the community when they were here previously and have maintained friendships. Also, they want to be able to watch their eldest son, Elijah, play basketball next season at Butler. The couple’s younger son, Cameron, intends to finish high school in the area.
Cleveland’s list of candidates is expected to include Golden State assistant Mike Malone, who was previously on Brown’s staff with the Cavs as well as Miami assistant David Fizdale. Grant will also likely present some college names to Gilbert, who will obviously have final say on the hire.
On Saturday, Warriors coach Mark Jackson said it’s time for Malone to get his shot as a head coach.
“I think he’s been ready,” said Jackson, who did not know if the Cavs had contacted Malone. “He deserves it, though. He deserves a chance.”
AP sportswriter Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis and Pat Graham in Denver contributed to this report.