Cavs pick up option for fourth year on Brown

Updated: May 25, 2006, 5:01 PM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- For the first time in recent memory, the Cleveland Cavaliers made an off-season coaching move that didn't involve someone being hired or fired.

Mike Brown
AP Photo/Mark DuncanCavs GM Danny Ferry said Brown is "the guy who we think can take us to the next level."

Mike Brown, who led Cleveland to 50 regular-season wins and the second round of the NBA playoffs in his first year as coach, was rewarded Thursday as the club picked up his $2.5 million contract option.

Brown signed a three-year, $10 million deal with the option last June when he was named the 17th coach in franchise history -- and the Cavs' sixth in six years.

"It seemed like the right thing to do," general manager Danny Ferry said. "From [owner] Dan Gilbert's perspective and my perspective, this is the guy we believe is the right one to lead our team, and why not show the commitment to him."

In exercising their option two years before they had to, the Cavaliers have shown a deeper commitment to the 36-year-old Brown, who began his pro coaching career breaking down videotape for the Denver Nuggets.

"We didn't have to do this now," said Ferry. "But we thought it was the right thing to do. He doesn't need a vote of confidence. It wasn't needed, which is why I think it says even more about Mike and the job he has done."

Led by superstar LeBron James, the Cavaliers went 50-32 during the regular season and made the playoffs for the first time since 1998. Cleveland eliminated Washington in six games in the first round, and then pushed the Detroit Pistons to a Game 7 before losing in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Brown managed to keep the Cavaliers happy, focused and winning despite not having guard Larry Hughes for 45 games with an injury.

When he was hired by Gilbert last year, Brown's main objective was to help build a team around James, the club's 21-year-old phenom who almost single-handedly got the Cavs past Detroit.

Among Brown's biggest strengths are his communication skills, which are vital in a league controlled by its high-salaried players. Brown also has a strong working relationship with Ferry, whom he coached in San Antonio.

"This is the guy who we think can take us to the next level," said Ferry, who began talks with Gilbert about picking up Brown's option six weeks ago.

Ferry said he received positive feedback from Cleveland's players about Brown's first-year performance.

"You looked at the energy of the group, the trust that they had in him, the high level of communication. It was a good, healthy, strong, rich environment," Ferry said. "That was a big reason. Making the playoffs just affirmed the direction we wanted to go. I really believe this is the right decision."

Brown was somewhat exposed for a lack of offensive imagination this season, and he said earlier this week that he may add an offensive-minded coach to his staff this summer. Ferry said he was pleased with the job done by Cleveland's staff.

Brown's other flaw was an overly heavy reliance on James, who played the second most minutes in the league this season. James appeared fatigued in the second half of Cleveland's 79-61 loss to the Pistons in Game 7 on Sunday.

Before taking over the Cavaliers, Brown spent two seasons as an assistant with the Indiana Pacers and three years with both the San Antonio Spurs and Washington Wizards. He began his NBA career with the Nuggets in 1992.

Brown laughed when he was reminded about the Cavs' recent carousel of coaching changes. Usually, Cleveland coaches are being dismissed in the days following a season.

"There's still time for that," he joked. "But at least I'll walk away with a little more money in my pocket."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press