Owner: 'As of now, Larry Brown is not coming'
Informed sources tell ESPN.com that Danny Ferry has been guaranteed final front-office say on personnel decisions by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
And that Ferry wouldn't have left his job as No. 2 in one of the best front offices in the league to make a lateral move to be No. 2 in Cleveland.
Which means the likelihood of Detroit Pistons coach Larry Brown joining the Cavs has lessened to virtually nil.
After the considerable criticism Brown received for his clandestine negotiations with the Cavaliers -- in the midst of the Pistons' title defense -- it's believed he gradually cooled on the Cleveland idea. The hiring of Ferry pretty much confirms that notion.
Brown and the Cavaliers have been talking since the end of the regular season, with the widespread expectation that Brown would join the Cavs as team president after Detroit's playoff run. The Cavs, though, wanted their new decision-marker in charge before Tuesday's draft, and with free-agency season opening Friday. Brown is at least a week away from deciding anything about his future, and the Cavs decided they could no longer wait on a maybe.
Smart move. You know by now where we stand on the concept of Larry working exclusively on the personnel side. Ferry, by contrast, is the son of a former GM (Bob Ferry) and has been schooled for the past two seasons by San Antonio ace architect R.C. Buford.
The Cavs are much better off entrusting LeBron James' future to Ferry and new coach Mike Brown, two rising stars who worked together with the Spurs, than to the Brown who likes to move around.
Now you naturally want to know what happens next in the Larry Saga.
Brown has said repeatedly in recent days that he hopes he'll be healthy enough to keep coaching and that he hopes the Pistons want him back. Yet the latter sentiment is actually another slap in the face of his beleaguered bosses, since team president Joe Dumars could be heard on Friday's SportsCenter saying: "It's totally up to Larry. It's his call. If he wants to be here, he'll be the coach as long as he wants to be here."
Brown says he first needs medical clearance for next season, which he hopes to receive later this week with a trip to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. If doctors determine that Brown's bladder complications stemming from hip surgery can be fixed with additional surgery, Brown says he'll ask the Pistons to let him stay as their coach.
How Pistons owner Bill Davidson responds to that request -- after fuming over months of whispers linking Larry to the Knicks, Lakers and Cavs -- will be the next big NBA story.
"This is our team," proclaimed Gilbert, flanked at a table by GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Brown. "We have our team in place and we're going forward with this team."
One without Larry Brown, who was nowhere near Gund Arena -- and doesn't sound like he'll be coming anytime soon.
Ferry, part of one of the most debated trades in Cleveland history, came back to the Cavaliers on Monday as the club's GM. Armed with a five-year contract, he'll take over a team with $25 million in salary cap space to spend this summer on free agents to complement star forward LeBron James.
With the NBA draft Tuesday and free agency opening July 1, Gilbert, who said he interviewed 22 candidates for the GM position before hiring Ferry, couldn't afford to wait any longer to finalize his front office.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Ferry contract is worth close to $10 million. The paper -- citing two league sources -- reported Ferry's deal also includes incentives.
Gilbert has talked with Brown about the Detroit Pistons coach becoming the Cavs' president of basketball operations if he doesn't coach next season. But Gilbert indicated that Brown is no longer in the Cavs' immediate plans.
"This organization right now can't wait to move forward," Gilbert said. "As of now, Larry Brown is not coming to this organization. I don't know where he'll end up or what he'll do. He's a great guy and we're all in awe of him. But I feel real good about our team."
At times, the Brown-to-the-Cavaliers story overshadowed the NBA playoffs, forcing the 64-year-old to answer almost daily questions about his plans for next season. Brown won't know what his next move will be until he addresses a medical condition in coming days.
He has an appointment scheduled for Wednesday morning at the Mayo Clinic. If he is cleared by doctors to coach, that's what Brown intends to do.
"Nothing has changed with me," Brown said by phone about an hour before Ferry was introduced at a news conference. "The Cleveland people are close to me, they know what I want to do. I don't even want to speculate on my other options if I can't coach. I've told Cleveland I would help them in any way I can if I don't coach."
Gilbert did not answer directly when asked if Brown could work for the Cavaliers in a consulting role.
The 38-year-old Ferry, who spent the past two seasons with San Antonio working under Spurs GM R.C. Buford, will apparently have final say in all player personnel decisions for the Cavs.
Ferry said that from the outset Gilbert promised him he would have full control.
"The only way the job was presented to me after the season was that you would have the basketball decisions, and you would lead the basketball operations part of it," said Ferry, whose father, Bob, was GM of the Washington Bullets from 1973-90.
Although he has never been a GM, Ferry feels he has all the necessary qualifications.
"I have more experience than most people," he said. "I grew up with it. My dad was a GM for 20 years. I heard him curse and holler at agents when I was nine years old."
Ferry's main chore in Cleveland will be building a supporting cast around James, who was the only Cavs player at the news conference. James quickly exited afterward without speaking to reporters.
"We have a pretty good player," Ferry said, smiling in James' direction. "We want to build a team around him that he has fun playing with, that he believes in, and that he's excited to come to work with everyday.
"That's important to me. We all have a responsibility to him to do that."
Another big decision for Ferry will be whether to offer a new contract to unrestricted free agent center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, his former teammate. The club has until Friday to offer the 7-foot-3 All-Star an extension.
"I've very hopeful that Zydrunas is back," Ferry said. "Yes, he is a great friend and I'm looking forward to giving him his first fine. I know he has some tough decisions ahead of him and I'm hopeful that the decision is to be here in Cleveland."
Ferry's decision to come back to Cleveland has reunited him with Mike Brown, who was an assistant coach with the Spurs when Ferry finished his 13-year playing career in San Antonio.
And back with the Cavaliers, Ferry will get reacquainted with a few Cleveland fans who have never gotten over Cleveland's 1989 trade that sent Ron Harper, two first-round picks and a second-rounder to the Los Angeles Clippers for Ferry and forward Reggie Williams.
Ferry laughed loudly when asked if he would have made the same deal.
"No comment," he said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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