It isn't easy to pull the plug on a coach who wins 127 regular-season games in two years and posts a winning percentage of more than .600. Coaches like that do not grow on trees.
But when Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert cashiered Mike Brown a few days ago, it was unquestionably the correct move, one that was highly understandable in the NBA community. After two extremely disappointing postseasons, something had to be done. A sacrificial lamb became an imperative.
It had become increasingly apparent that Brown had lost his authoritative voice in the locker room. That voice bounced off all the walls, but was being ignored. Ample evidence of that notion can be traced directly to the Cavs' performance in the final three games of the series against the Boston Celtics.
There is no question that Boston coach Doc Rivers, a master motivator, dramatically outcoached his counterpart, much as he's doing in the Eastern Conference final against Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy. In no way were the Cavaliers properly prepared to defeat the Celtics. That became evident in game one when it took a virtuoso performance by LeBron James to register a come-from-behind victory.
LeBron cannot -- and should not -- be expected to play like that all the time. Not even the great Michael Jordan was capable of sustaining that kind of play. Jordan had help along the way.
If not for the remarkable play of James, there is no way the Cavs win 127 games the last two seasons, gaining home-court advantage throughout the playoffs both seasons. Brown rode LeBron's coattails all the way. Without James, the Cavs are a notch or two above mediocre. He was truly the NBA's most valuable player.
If James chooses to remain in Cleveland, it is imperative that Gilbert make the correct choice for Brown's successor. And if anyone believes James won't have a significant say in that matter, he is naive.
It will be very interesting to see in which direction the owner heads. The smart money says he'll stay within the ranks of the NBA as he seeks to keep LeBron at home. Anyone short of Phil Jackson or Rivers or perhaps Larry Brown or Byron Scott will not make a difference. And that might be next to impossible top pull off.
Rumors have the Chicago Bulls sniffing around regarding a Jackson return even though there is a good chance his Los Angeles Lakers could repeat as NBA champions. Given his history, the only way Jackson would return to Chicago is if a superstar awaited him like Jordan in Chicago and Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal in L.A.
Now if that superstar happened to be LeBron James, should he choose to abandon Cleveland, Jackson could be enticed. So could Rivers, a Chicago native who isn't overly appreciated in Boston. A lineup with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and James on the floor would be formidable.
That's not to say LeBron is most likely to wind up in the Windy City. That scenario makes sense only if he is determined to play for an experienced coach, especially one who has won a league championship.
And isn't that what Lebron is all about?