INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) --
Mike Brown's relationship with All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving didn't
grow. They got along, but had their issues.
However, any differences Brown had with his best player didn't get him fired for a second time by the Cavaliers.
That's the point made by general manager David Griffin on Tuesday,
strongly denying that Irving had any direct involvement in the decision
to replace Brown. The coach was dismissed on Monday -- nearly a month
after the Cavs finished a disappointing 33-49 season.
"Any, any insinuation that Kyrie had anything to do with this
decision is patently false," Griffin said, his voice rising. "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."
Griffin then pounded his hand on the table for effect.
"That is not a narrative that we are going to go with," he said.
Irving, who will be playing for his third coach in four NBA seasons,
and Brown rarely seemed on the same page in their year together. While
Irving's defense improved, there were too many times when he was a
liability. Also, Irving and guard Dion Waiters struggled during their
time on the court and the pair had some off-court issues under Brown's
It's understandable that Griffin defended Irving. After all, the
21-year-old is Cleveland's top player -- a potential superstar in the
making -- and the Cavs can offer him a maximum contract extension this
summer. The team doesn't want to create any unnecessary turmoil with
Irving, who has repeatedly sidestepped any questions about whether he
intends to accept a long-term deal in Cleveland.
Brown's first stint with Cleveland ended in 2010, the summer when the
Cavs were knocked out in early the playoffs and LeBron James left for
Miami. And while Brown isn't solely to blame for the Cavs missing the
playoffs for the fourth straight year despite being in the top-heavy
Eastern Conference, he took the fall.
Griffin, who was promoted by owner Dan Gilbert after serving as the
club's interim GM since Feb. 6, said the decision to fire Brown was made
Brown did improve the Cavs' record and they made a major leap
defensively, jumping from last in the league to 12th in defensive
field-goal percentage. But he couldn't get them back into the
postseason, and players grumbled about his offense.
Griffin said Brown wasn't solely to blame.
"Nothing's all one person's fault," he said. "I do think there's
accountability to be shared everywhere. When we came into the season
there were probably things we could have done better as a front office
to set the table as well. This was a collective approach this season. We
made progress collectively in some ways toward the end of the year and
we fell short collectively in some ways. So this was absolutely not the
blame of anyone. It's shared by everybody."
Griffin has already begun the search to find Brown's replacement. He
did not reveal the names of any possible candidates and said there is
not a clear front-runner.
A few names have already emerged as candidates, including former
Phoenix executive Steve Kerr, Los Angeles Clippers assistant Alvin
Gentry, former Golden State coach Mark Jackson and Iowa State coach Fred
Griffin said the search will not be limited to pro coaches and there is no timetable to find Brown's successor.
"We're not going to rule out any coach at any level," he said.
"College experience will not be something that is ruled out. 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."
Griffin said Gilbert, who has fired four coaches and replaced three
GMs since buying the Cavs in 2005, will be heavily involved in the
"Dan does have a reputation as a very hands-on owner, because our
ownership group is very involved," he said. "This will be a
collaborative effort. 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.
"As I've said before, you're only as strong as that relationship. That bond is going to be very strong."