Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Time for the Cleveland Cavaliers to bring Mark Price home

mark price cavs coachTomorrow will be a month since the Cleveland Cavaliers fired head coach Mike Brown and the team is still without a head coach.

The Cavs are on their third coaching search in the past four years and clearly were paying attention and taking notes earlier this year when the Cleveland Browns conducted their latest search for a coach.

Dan Gilbert and general manager David Griffin are interviewing as many people as they possibly can, as they have reportedly met with:

  • Former Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins, who was 214-201 over seven seasons with the Grizzlies. He helped lead Memphis to the Western Conference finals in 2013 after winning a franchise-high 56 games, but was let go after the season.
  • Vinny Del Negro, who was 210-184 with four playoff appearances over five seasons, two as head coach in Chicago and three as head coach of the Clippers. He was fired by the Clippers after losing in the first round of the playoffs (to Hollins’ Memphis team) despite winning 57 games that season.
  • Former Phoenix head coach Alvin Gentry, who was fired mid-season by the Suns. Gentry has coached four teams over 12 seasons, posting a record of 335-370 to go with just two playoff appearances.

While those names are nice, there isn’t a “must-have” name anywhere in that group, and none of them say “NBA championship coach.” There is little reason to think that if the Cavs hire one of them, things will be any different than when they hired Byron Scott.

With Gilbert being Gilbert, the Cavs have also once again embarked on trying to lure a college coach to Cleveland. Gilbert reportedly wants a “high-profile coach” who can be the “face of the franchise,” which has led him to reach out to the likes of Kentucky’s John Calipari, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Florida’s Billy Donovan and Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie.

Despite being an NBA owner for almost 10 years now, Gilbert has somehow missed the memo that college coaches don’t work in the NBA – the evidence is overwhelming. It also begs the question of why you need the coach to be the “face of the franchise.” Isn’t that a role that should be filled by players like Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett (both overall No. 1 selections) or maybe the upcoming No. 1 overall draft pick?

Luckily, the college quartet saved Gilbert from himself as they all turned down Gilbert’s advances.

The Cavs are not just looking at NBA retreads and college coaches, as they have also reportedly talked to:

  • Chicago assistant coach Adrian Griffin, who played nine years in the NBA. He has been an assistant coach with Scott Skiles in Milwaukee and Tom Thibodeau with the Bulls.
  • Clippers assistant coach Tyronn Lue. An 11-year NBA veteran, Lue has been an assistant coach with Doc Rivers in both Boston and Los Angeles.

There is one other name that has emerged as a candidate in the past few days that makes so much sense that the Cavs probably won’t hire him, but they should.

It’s time to bring Mark Price home to Cleveland.

Price reportedly interviewed with the Cavs on Tuesday, and while there is no doubt some PR value in talking to the four-time All-Star point guard, there may be actual value in bringing him on as coach as well.

Price has worked as an assistant coach with Charlotte, Orlando and Golden State, and has been a shooting consultant over the years with a number of teams, so he is familiar with the day-to-day structure of NBA life.

As a former point guard who was also a talented shooter, Price seems like an ideal candidate to work with Irving and Dion Waiters, teaching them about the nuances of playing the guard position in the NBA.

“It’s great,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said of Price interviewing with the Cavs. “Obviously we don’t want to lose him. He’s done a great job here. But he’s ready to be a head coach.”

Price might be a bit of a gamble, but is he really any more of a reach than Griffin or Lue? And is there a guaranteed winning coach among the group of retreads that the Cavs have interviewed?

While we’re not totally sure what a successful NBA coach may look like, there is one thing we are absolutely sure of: a coach is only as good as his players.

Erik Spoelstra is probably just an average coach, but he is currently coaching in his fourth consecutive NBA Finals because he has LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. We believe Phil Jackson was a very good coach, especially as a motivator; he became a Hall-of-Fame coach because he had Michael Jordon, Shaquille O’Neill and Kobe Bryant on his teams.

There’s no reason to think that Price will fail simply because this would be his first NBA head coaching job. If the Cavs can put a few more pieces around the core of players they already have, and give Price the time to grow into the job (a novel approach in today’s NBA, we know), they might be surprised at the results.

The Browns coaching search dragged on for weeks, but it looks like the team got it right with Mike Pettine. The Cavs are taking their time and have a chance to possibly get it right with Price.

The Cavs took a chance on Price back in 1986, trading for him after he was drafted by Dallas, and they were rewarded with one of the most successful runs in franchise history.

The time has come for them to take another chance on him.

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

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