May 13, 2014, 10:17 AM EST
In danger of losing their small forward in free agency, the Cavaliers fired their coach and are seeking a replacement who appeases their top player.
Haven’t we been here before?
This, the stakes are a little lower. Luol Deng (not LeBron James) is the free agent small forward, and Kyrie Irving (not LeBron) is Cleveland’s reportedly disgruntled top player. And the fired coach, well, that’s still Mike Brown.
But it’s still on new Cavaliers general manager David Griffin to find a coach to lead Cleveland into the playoffs for the first time since LeBron left. Maybe that’s someone who coached Deng in Chicago.
According to a person close to the situation, Chicago Bulls assistant coach Adrian Griffin has emerged as a top candidate for the job.
An NBA insider, speaking with Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN, described Adrian Griffin as “a player-friendly Tom Thibodeau.” That’s a pretty great label to have, and if the Cavaliers find it accurate, they should Griffin on the spot.
Of course, there’s a long history of assistant coaches being described as player friendly and struggling to relate to players as a head coach. Often, an assistant’s role is to play good cop, and not everyone can make the transition to being the stricter head coach.
I tend to believe Griffin – who played for the Celtics, Mavericks, Rockets, Bulls and SuperSonics during his nine-year career – could, but that belief might not be enough to get him a job this offseason.
With established coaches like Stan Van Gundy, Lionel Hollins, George Karl and Mark Jackson available, it’s a buyers’ market. Unless the Cavaliers really like Griffin and/or want to save money by hiring a lesser-known candidate – either of which is a reasonable position – it might make sense to pluck a coach with a proven track record of success.
Griffin is just 39. With the Cavaliers now or elsewhere later, he’ll get a head-coaching job at some point.
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