The Fire Mike Brown Debate – In Defense of Mike Brown

June 12, 2009

Read the debate intro and Bleacher Fan’s opinion.

We’ve all had a bad day at work before, right? Somebody says something snarky in a meeting, or grates on nerves, or steals credit for a project. Instead of just letting it go, what do you do? You vent. You might vent to a co-worker in a back room or call a friend in a hallway. When you vent you don’t think about being politically correct, or taking everyone’s feelings into consideration. You just want to vent… you want to get those negative feelings out of you. Who’s to say having a front office job for a major NBA franchise doesn’t have the same situations taking place? My guess is that’s all that happened – in contrast to the “reports” that surfaced Thursday stating the Cleveland Cavaliers were considering firing reigning Coach of the Year, and owner of more pair of fashionable glasses than any other grown man, Mike Brown. The sports media is, once again, making a big deal out of nothing. Plus, Mike Brown does not deserve to get fired.

How does a guy get a prestigious award like NBA Coach of the Year? Coaching a team that went 66-16 in the regular season, and 39-2 at home, is a good start. Brown has been credited far and wide for inspiring his star LeBron James to put in the same effort on the defensive end of the floor as he always has on the offensive end. Mike Brown has made LeBron James a better defender and a more complete basketball player. In fact, James has grown so much as a player in the 2008-2009 regular season that he earned his first NBA MVP award this year. Mike Brown is good for LeBron James.

Mike Brown has also improved as a coach each year he’s been in the NBA, despite the fact that he has really only had one consistent contributor on the roster since he started coaching – LeBron James. Brown, like James, has suffered from a lack of talent and depth on the roster. It’s hard to install elaborate motion offense if the other players on the team cannot hit an open shot. Which leads me to my next point…

The Cavaliers do not have abundant talent on their roster, Bleacher Fan. How can Mike Brown be asked to create a championship team with only one championship player? The Cavs have no dominant big player (a must for any championship-quality team in this era of the NBA). They also lack depth in the backcourt. For Bleacher Fan to claim the Cavaliers had superior talent to the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals is completely false. The Magic have 4-5 players who can take a game winning shot – the definition of a true team. The Cavs have one, which they proved.

Those realities make it unfair to place all of the blame for the Cavaliers unlikely demise at Brown’s feet. Name any championship coach in NBA history – Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, Pat Riley, Greg Popovich – and it’s easy to see they all had more than one championship caliber player on the roster who performed well on a consistent basis. It’s unfair to expect championship quality teams from Brown, but not give him the tools to live up to those expectations. The mismatches Bleacher Fan talks about were not manufactured by a coach. Stan Van Gundy didn’t make Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu grow to 6’10.” He didn’t sign them to contracts, either. Their General Manager Otis Smith did. Mike Brown is in a difficult situation because the lack of talent, height, and depth on the Cavaliers roster.

Brown’s job as a head coach is to formulate a philosophy that will win championships. He chose defense – a proven path to the Larry O’Brien trophy. The players even bought into that philosophy and played hard for him – another proof point that Brown is an effective coach.

Not only should the Cavs not fire Mike Brown, they can’t act unilaterally. It’s also important to note that LeBron is in a position in Cleveland where all decisions regarding coaches and personnel must be approved by him. You can’t fire the coach for the best basketball player on the planet and not consult him… unless you want zero chance of resigning him when his contract expires in 2010.

The key to helping Mike Brown fully realize his potential as a coach is getting him more good players that perform consistently and fit his philosophy. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is not an athletic, tough center. Neither is Anderson Varejao. Or Joe Smith. Or JJ Hickson. Mike Brown’s success is in part tied to Danny Ferry’s ability to surround the franchise star with more talented players. Even good coaches can’t make something out nothing.

The Fire Mike Brown Debate – Nobody Rides For Free

June 12, 2009

Rumors abound right now regarding the future of Mike Brown as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. If the Cavs are smart, they’ll pull into a gas station, ask Brown to run in and ask for directions, then take off while he’s inside. I would get as far away from him as possible, and fast. Sticking with Brown may cost the Cavs LeBron James.

Sure, Mike Brown has coached a successful team. His record as a head coach is very strong, sitting at 211 wins to only 117 losses. It’s hard to argue those numbers. But, let’s realistically consider where those numbers came from – LeBron James.

LeBron is, without question, one of the best players in the game today. In a game where you play only five people at a time, having 20% of your on-court staff qualify as “one of the best in the game” gives you a distinct advantage. Basketball, unlike baseball or football, creates an environment where a team can be carried by a single player. In no way does a single player guarantee a championship; but, he can single-handedly take credit for many wins along the way. Therefore, I challenge anyone to prove to me that the Cavaliers’ success is due to anyone other than LeBron James.

“But Bleacher Fan,” I hear you say, “Mike Brown was named coach of the year! The Cavs CAN’T fire him.”

I argue, having watched the Cavaliers falter quite embarrassingly against the Orlando Magic, that Mike Brown did not win Coach of the Year because of his coaching ability. He won Coach of the Year because his team had the best record in basketball. To recap, WHY did the Cavs have the best record in basketball? Everyone say it with me… LeBron James!

Now, why did the Cavaliers lose the Eastern Conference Finals to the Magic? Because of Mike Brown’s coaching. Sure, the Magic were able to capitalize on mismatches created in the line-up, but those mismatches were manufactured by a superior coach, Stan Van Gundy. Van Gundy out-coached Brown to the point that the Cavs actually looked like they didn’t belong in the Eastern Conference Finals.

To give Brown some credit, his strategy coming into each game was relatively strong. The Cavs were able to run up a quick (and rather large) lead in several of the games. Where Brown failed, though, was his inability to anticipate or respond to the adjustments made by Van Gundy, a much better coach. The end result was that Brown got schooled, despite having better talent on the court.

The 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, though, is not the first time this problem has popped up. The Cavaliers were outscored in the third quarter in 50% of their games this year (although the problem has been ongoing since Brown came on board). Mike Brown is incapable of making any type of a half-time adjustment. Think about it. The Cavaliers were one of the top two teams in first half scoring all year. Yet, somehow, during the halftime break, they became sub-standard. It is because the opposing coaches make adjustments during halftime that Brown is incapable of handling. This is something that can be overcome when playing teams like the New York Knicks or the Washington Wizards. When you are playing teams with superior coaches, such as Stan Van Gundy, the stakes get raised and overcoming that obstacle becomes a little more challenging.

Getting back to my original point, why should the Cavs fire Mike Brown? Because in pressure situations, against the better teams and better coaches, Mike Brown will always come up second best. Under Mike Brown, the Cavaliers will NOT win a championship, and LeBron will seek greener pastures as a result. If Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert REALLY wants to promise Cleveland an end to their championship drought, then he should begin with the taking care of the problem, and fire Mike Brown!

Read the debate intro and Sports Geek’s opinion.

The NBA Replay Debate – The Verdict

June 9, 2009

Please read the site note at the bottom of the page.

Thanks for reading yet another debate on The Sports Debates. We’re up to a topic a day, so make sure to continue checking the site, bookmark us, subscribe to us to get TSD delivered to your inbox (it’s free, don’t worry), or follow us on Twitter.

(Cue the drum roll)…

Today’s debate winner IS…


Bleacher Fan made the obvious point that NBA officials are human, and implied that fans must hold them to human standards. This is the very essence of this debate. Fans may accept that refs are human, but their teams transcend those bounds, for better or worse. I know I don’t think of a team as a collection of humans, just trying to make it in this cruel, cruel world (cue Latrell Sprewell’s “trying to feed my family” comment). My expectations for performance from my favorite teams is extremely high, and when that expectation isn’t met, I’m frustrated as a fan (makes you wonder why I’m a Cubs fan). In fact, when teams don’t deliver on fan expectations the ratings go down, attendance falters, and revenue and income are negatively impacted.
However, despite that hole in the argument, I must side with Bleacher Fan.

As soon as video replays are applied in a subjective manner, the game slows down dramatically and every human decision is called into question. Rules must be black and white. Gray area in rules leads to chaos, not constructive public debate.

I do believe that the NBA will eventually find a way to review potentially controversial shots. However, to Bleacher Fan’s salient point – what makes the last shot more important than any other shot? After a loss, a coach is more likely to talk about the missed opportunities than a questionable call in the last second. In fact, if any team has proven that losing on a last second-shot isn’t detrimental, it’s the 2009 Orlando Magic. Stan Van Gundy spent less time talking about last second shots, and more time talking about the areas of the game where the Magic let points get away from them. And, here they are in the NBA Finals. Sounds like a solid approach.

Now, I can’t conclude this verdict without addressing a real issue I have with all basketball officials. As a former amateur basketball ref, I can say that some athleticism is required (or whatever it is I did that passed as athleticism). It’s a lot of running because a good ref places a great deal of emphasis on being in the right position to make a call. If a ref isn’t in position to have enough certainty to make a call, then they should not make it. Period. So, fans must learn to be more tolerant of out of position refs “missing” calls, and refs need to learn to hustle more, just like the players. If their position is designed to keep the competition fair, then they must hustle to ensure that fairness. Most basketball refs can afford to hustle a little more.

Agree? Disagree? Email us at

Read Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan’s arguments.

The 2009 NBA Finals Debate – The Verdict Is In

June 9, 2009

Will the defendants please rise?

Loyal Homer has reached a decision. After much deliberation, Loyal Homer has decided to rule in favor of…


(Minor applause)

Folks, this isn’t a slam dunk case. Many across the nation think this is in the bag. Let me tell you, it’s not. Judging by the results of the poll, you don’t necessarily think it’s over either. As of this writing, 42% of you think the Magic still have a shot! (Some of you just want to see Stan Van Gundy wearing his Sunday best.) Remember the shooting display that Orlando Magic forwards Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, and Mickael Peitrus (where has he been for the NBA Finals?) put on against the Cleveland Cavaliers. That could still happen against the favored Lakers.

We at the Sports Debates have been giving Stan Van Gundy a lot of grief (well, one of us has… you figure out who). But, Loyal Homer likes Stan better than his brother Jeff, not only because he has more hair than his brother, but because he has quietly turned this team around in a short amount of time. Remember two years ago when Florida Gator men’s basketball head coach Billy Donavan took the job and then had a change of heart in the span of two days? ‘Stan the Man’ was the fall back guy and he wasn’t exactly Stan the Man in the eyes of Magic fans. While I don’t think he is the best coach in the league or even this series like Bleacher Fan suggests, I still think he is underrated and doesn’t get the league-wide respect that he deserves. The fact that Orlando has the next three games, as Bleacher Fan touches on, gives them a shot.

However, let’s not kid ourselves. Though the Magic are a Courtney Lee layup from being tied in this series, the Lakers are still the overwhelming favorite at this point. The Lakers won Game 2 of the NBA Finals with an admittedly mediocre performance from star Kobe Bryant. They got clutch shots late in the game from center Pau Gasol, guard Derek Fisher, and forward Lamar Odom.

What separates the Lakers from the Magic in this series is the frontcourt, as Sports Geek says. The Magic matched up well with Cleveland but they really don’t with the Lakers. Then again, who does match up well with the Lakers? Especially with the monsters down low in center Andrew Bynum, Gasol, and Odom. After losing his last two shots at a record tenth NBA championship, you have to figure Lakers coach Phil Jackson isn’t going to lose three Finals in a row.

Good debate! Like I said, this series isn’t over yet (at least ABC hopes it isn’t). That said, the Lakers would really have to lay an egg to let the Magic back in the series at this point.

Read Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan’s opinions!

2009 NBA Finals Debate – There’s Still Some Magic in Orlando

June 8, 2009

Please read the site note at the bottom of this post.

Attention NBA Fans: The Los Angeles Lakers are about to make history! After winning only 2 games in the NBA Finals, it appears that the rest of the world has decided to appoint them as the 2008-2009 Champions. Therefore, we will forget the rest of the Finals, and hand them the Larry O’Brien Trophy over today… right?

Sounds kind of stupid when you hear it put in words like that, doesn’t it? Well, that’s what Sports Geek will try to sell you. In essence, this series is over, and his message to the Orlando Magic is “Thanks for playing; here’s your participation trophy.”

Well, it’s a good thing for the Lakers that the Magic know how to take a hint, isn’t it? Just ask the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, both of whom had written off the Magic before their series began.

Here are two key reasons why the Magic, and their fans, are still in this series:

Reason #1 – Three games in a row in Orlando

Only fantasy sports are played on paper. Real sports are played on a court (at least in this case), where multiple factors come into play that you cannot quantify. The first of which is the task of winning on the road. While they were not successful in winning, Orlando proved last night that the Lakers are at least vulnerable at home. How vulnerable do the Lakers have to be? Only vulnerable enough to give up one game in LA. That was all it took for the Magic to beat the Cavs, and that’s all it will take for them to beat the Lakers.

Conversely, the Lakers have not yet tested their mettle in Orlando this post-season. The city of Orlando, whose citizens want nothing more than to show their support of a team making its first Finals appearance since 1995, can’t wait to show the Lakers what REAL fans are like. This series will likely end up heading back to Los Angeles with the Lakers trailing 3-2.

Reason #2 – Stan Van Gundy

There is no better coach in the NBA than Stan Van Gundy. His ability to anticipate and adapt is uncanny! I’ve never seen a coach make so many right decisions with the game on the line. Whether it’s trailing by 16 at the half, or taking a last-second shot at the buzzer. Van Gundy can read his game-time counterpart like an open book.

Beyond that ability to anticipate and react accordingly, Van Gundy trusts his entire team, not just one player, like the Cavs do in LeBron James, or the Lakers in Kobe Bryant. That makes them even more dangerous. When the game is on the line, Van Gundy has the utmost faith that his TEAM, regardless of who is on the court, will perform. That’s why, in this post-season of many nail-biter finishes, the Magic have come back with plays where Hedo Turkoglu takes the last-second shot, Rashard Lewis takes the shot, or Courtney Lee takes the shot.

If you are playing the Cavaliers in that situation, you know that LeBron’s getting the ball. For the Lakers, it’s Kobe. When it’s Orlando, though, you have to cover EVERYONE! Courtney Lee was uncontested in what should have been a game winning shot last night. The ball just didn’t fall right. However, no one could have predicted that as the play to end the game. Van Gundy knew his options, and implicitly knew which would give him the best opportunity to win.

Make no mistake, I am not predicting a Magic championship. They have a very steep uphill climb. They are down 0-2 against a very tough opponent. Nothing in this Finals series will be easy. That is no reason to write them off, though. The series is far from over, especially when you have a 3-game home stand with the best coach in basketball!

Site Note: Don’t forget to read the intro andSport Geek’s first rebuttal.

The NBA Championship Debate – Why the Orlando Magic Will Win

May 29, 2009

(Site note: If you missed the set up to this debate, click here. If you missed why the Magic will win (below), click here. If you missed how the Cavaliers will win, click here. Read Loyal Homer’s argument for the Lakers, then vote!).

The Orlando Magic will hoist this year’s Davey O’Brien trophy in their champagne soaked home locker room. Bold statement? Not when you consider how good this team really is.

First is their impressive offense, which has only picked up since the post-season started. For starters, their field goal percentage has gone up in the playoffs compared to the regular season. As a team the Magic shot 46% in the regular season to an improved 47% in the playoffs, and nearly 50% in the Eastern Conference finals. The Magic get better each game, so let’s compare regular season stats to the Eastern Conference finals stats and gauge how this team keeps improving.

Their defensive star, center Dwight Howard, is a big reason why they’ve improved so much. He shot 57% in the regular season, but has improved to 62% from the field in the conference finals. Orlando’s version of Mr. Big Shot, Rashard Lewis, (sorry, Chauncey) shot 44% in the regular season, but is now shooting 56% in the conference finals. The list of improved performance goes right down the line, Rafer Alston shot 41% in the regular season, but is shooting 45% now. Supposed backup and defensive specialist Mickael Pietrus knocked in 41% of his shots in the regular season, and is now money 49% of the time. These are not statistical anomalies – these are trends. The team’s ball movement and ability to spread the floor on offense with great 3-point shooters make it impossible to double Howard and prevent a 3-point shot. Keep in mind that it’s not little guard that are hitting these 3s and driving the lane – it’s a bunch of 6’10” match up nightmares.

There is no team left in the playoffs good enough to play Howard straight up on defense and not foul out in the first 5 minutes of the game. Therefore, the double team will come, Howard will pass, and the Magic will connect on a wide-open 3-point shot more times than not.

On defense, Howard, the NBA Defensive Player of the Year has been good enough in protecting the paint that the Cavs, and every other team the Magic have played this post-season, are settling for low-percentage outside jump shots. Not even great players (or puppets?) like Kobe or LeBron can connect every time. No remaining team in the playoffs can outshoot the Magic. Period.

Playing against the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals was a stroke of good luck for them, having gone 2-1 against them in the 2009 regular season, plus winning 9 of their last 12 against them going into the series. I’m sure Cavs fans were thinking this was the ONE team they did NOT want to play come late May. The Magic will end this series at home and move on to the West.

The Magic were great against the West this year. They went 2-0 versus the Lakers and 1-1 against the Nuggets. They actually beat the Nuggets in Denver, but lost to them at home in a dismal game on February 11, 2009 where they scored just 12 points in the second quarter just 9-days after losing All-Star Jameer Nelson for the season. They also shot a very uncharacteristic 30% in that game. Basically, everything had to go wrong for the Magic, and they still only lost by 9.

It’s easy to see that when the Magic get behind in games early, it’s because they aren’t trying yet. When they concentrate, work for open shots, dominate inside on defense and listen to their talented coach Stan Van Gundy (what’s with the short-sleeves under the suit coat, man – is it THAT hot in Orlando?), there is not a team in the NBA that can stop them.

Orlando over the Cavs in 6. Orlando over the Western champs in 5.