One thing we know for sure is that the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to have a new coach. Mike Brown was the NBA Coach of the Year in 2009, but his failure to beat the Celtics in the playoffs this year when his team was expected to win it all was the final straw. The Cavs are obviously a desperate franchise. With the uncertainty around where LeBron James is going to play next year the team can’t afford to look like it isn’t taking steps to improve, and Brown just wasn’t getting it done when it matters. There are several NBA teams looking for coaches right now, and at least one more that still could be in the coming weeks. What makes Cleveland’s job so intriguing, though, is what the team could look like next year. If James re-signs then the new coach would be taking over one of the two best players in the NBA, and would have a realistic look at multiple titles. If James leaves, though, then Cleveland is just another job in a smaller market. The job is either the best there is or it’s nothing – there is no middle ground.
What makes this situation even more interesting is that you can bet on it. Bodog is offering a long list of potential candidates and the odds that they will take it. It’s an interesting list full of the usual suspects and a couple of surprises. Here’s a look:
John Calipari (9/4) – He’s the hottest name in college basketball, and he’s buddies with LeBron, so it could happen. I just don’t see it, though. Calipari has only been at Kentucky for a year, he has a fat contract, and his recruiting class is great again. He’s going to succeed, and I just don’t see him leaving. Of course, he said he wasn’t leaving Memphis a week before he left, so the fact that he has said he is staying in Kentucky means nothing. On top of that, Calipari wasn’t a success in his first try in the NBA and his ego probably won’t let him rest without trying again. Still, he hasn’t won a national championship yet, either, and Kentucky could be the best chance at that he gets. I think he’s staying.
Byron Scott (5/1) – Scott was the coach of the year the year before Brown was, and he also got fired the next year. This isn’t an award you want to win. Scott won three rings with the Lakers, so he knows what it takes to go all the way. Despite having Chris Paul and a strong supporting cast around him in New Orleans, though, he never really made progress towards the goal of going deep. I could see him getting the job if LeBron leaves, but I don’t think he has done enough to appease the King if he stays. Your view on this one, then, depends on your view of LeBron’s decision.
Avery Johnson (9/1) – Keeping the trend alive, Johnson was th coach of the year in 2006. He was screwed by the Mavs when he was fired, and he’s hungry to get back in the game. He has already talked to at least four teams this spring. His name hasn’t popped up around Cleveland, and he has the same issue as Scott – he’s never taken a team to the next level in the playoffs – but this price is more attractive than the one for Scott.
Tom Izzo (12/1) – I wouldn’t bet this one at almost any price. Izzo has a very good thing going at Michigan State, and he knows it. He’s well paid, the school lets him do what he wants, he’s consistently at the top of the conference, he recruits like a demon, and he has the potential to win it all almost every year. He’s had plenty of opportunities to leave in the past and he hasn’t been tempted, so I don’t know whay he would leave now. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Izzo never had another job. He’s old school in that way.
Phil Jackson (15/1) – Common sense says this one isn’t happening. He has said that he isn’t interested through back channels, and he has no ties to Cleveland. If James’ stays, though, I wouldn’t rule it out entirely. The Cavs would throw a boatload of cash at him, and the Lakers are looking to cut his salary. More significantly, Jackson has the biggest ego on the planet. He was the guy who got the two best players of the last 20 years over the hump and winning championships, and you have to believe that he’d see the appeal of doing the same with LeBron. I don’t think it’s wildly likely, but these odds are a bit f an overlay in my eyes.
Mike Budenholzer (18/1) – This one is interesting if you think LeBron is leaving. Maybe. Budenholzer is an assistant in San Antonio, and he has long been viewed as Gregg Popovich’s successor. there are age issues creeping up on the Spurs, though, so maybe Budenholzer would rather make the move to a top job now instead of waiting around to captain a sinking ship in San Antonio. Doubtful, but at 30/1 or so I would be hard pressed to ignore the possibility. This price is too low.
Jeff Van Gundy (20/1) – He’s good on TV, and he has the luxury of being able to sound like an expert without ever having to actually prove that he still has game. I don’t see him leaving that, and I don’t see why LeBron and the Cavs would want a guy who hasn’t won a championship and who is rusty to take over.
Larry Brown (20/1) – I love Larry Brown, and as far as I am concerned he can have any job he wants, but I don’t think he’ll take this one. As he has shown in Charlotte his strength is in building a team up. With LeBron there there is nothing to build, and if he’s gone then he might as well just stay in Charlotte because they are further ahead. Brown says that Charlotte is his last coaching job, and naive as it seems I might actually believe him.
Mike Krzyzewski (22/1) – No chance. Why in the world would he ever leave Duke at this point? He has turned down better jobs – the Lakers – and the Nets offered him pretty much the whole state of New Jersey as a salary and he wasn’t interested. If he waned to go he would have gone already. This is a sucker bet.
LeBron James (1000/1) – Maybe it’s time for the return of the player coach. Or maybe not.
Any other coach (1/1) – I don’t love the price, but this seems like the clear choice. There’s not a name anywhere on this list that I really believe – especially if James bolts. None of the above is the best option here. The problem with betting this, though, is that they aren’t likely to hire anyone in a hurry, so your money is going to be tied up too long. No good coach will commit before they know what LeBron is doing, and no up and coming coach will get hired if there is still a chance that LeBron is staying.