The Cavs Are Done

17 Jun 2010

And LeBron James, without saying or doing anything, isn’t helping.

Izzo, who spurned up to $30 million from Cleveland to stay at Michigan State, was owner Dan Gilbert’s No. 1 choice to replace Mike Brown as the Cavs’ coach, a position that might stay vacant until James, the superstar and free-agent-on-deck signs in Cleveland — or elsewhere.

Izzo’s decision Tuesday to remain with the Spartans has further muddled a complex situation for the Cavs, who are preparing for next week’s NBA draft and the July 1 opening of free agency without a coach or a front-running candidate and they have no idea of James’ plans.

Last week, general manager Chris Grant said the club’s mantra is patience during a search that is showing no signs of ending anytime soon.

“We’ll wait as long as we have to wait,” he said.

It was assumed if Izzo turned them down that the Cavs would initiate a possible fallback plan: Byron Scott. But other than a one-hour phone interview by Grant, the Cavs have not gone any deeper with Scott, the former New Orleans and New Jersey coach working as a TV analyst during the finals.

Gilbert and Grant are not commenting during the search, so it is not known if they intend to bring Scott in for a meeting.

Scott’s agent, Brian McInerney, deferred all comments to the team about its interest.

Scott would likely talk to Gilbert, but it’s doubtful he’ll commit to anyone before seeing how things progress between Phil Jackson and the Los Angeles Lakers after the season. Jackson, who will be 65 in September, may retire or he may not want to come back if owner Jerry Buss forces him to take a pay cut.

Scott won three championships as Magic Johnson’s backcourt partner on L.A.’s “Showtime” teams and has dreamed of coaching on Hollywood’s stage. Scott has a strong relationship with Kobe Bryant, whose endorsement could mean everything to Buss.

Gilbert has shown a willingness to go beyond his comfort zone to land his man, and an offer like the one he discussed with Izzo, a coach with no NBA experience, would certainly pique Scott’s interest.

It’s also possible the Cavs could make another run at Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and former New York and Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy. But Krzyzewski recently said he’ll never leave the college game, and Van Gundy has made it known that he enjoys the TV broadcast booth and isn’t ready to rush back into coaching at the sake of family stability.

“I miss a lot of parts of coaching, not all parts, but a lot of them,” Van Gundy said during the Celtics-Lakers finals. “But that doesn’t mean it’s right timing when there are kids involved. So when people say that (he should be coaching), I think they forget that if you were single the decision might be one way, but if you have children involved it might be a different way.”

There are candidates to choose from. The bigger issue for the Cavs, though, remains James.

They can’t promise a potential coach that the two-time MVP will be on their roster after July 1, so it’s possible Gilbert will wait for a decision from James before hiring his next coach. It’s not ideal, but it may be Cleveland’s best and only option at this point.

Cleveland has had informal discussions with Milwaukee assistant Kelvin Sampson and former Atlanta coach Mike Woodson, both of whom could get interviews. But the Cavs only spoke with them as a safety net in case the whirlwind courtship with Izzo dissolved.

It did, and Izzo admitted the uncertainty about James’ future was a major factor.

Izzo didn’t speak directly with James, but got some needed information from people close to the All-Star.

“I felt comfortable with the things I needed to know,” Izzo said. “If LeBron would’ve stayed, that doesn’t mean that I would have been there. It was not the only factor. Was it a big factor? Sure it was.”

And for any other prospective Cavs coach, it still is.