Wednesday 24th July 2024,
The Hoop Doctors

Do Cavs Have a Shot at Phil Jackson?

Quick answer is ‘No’.

Oh, I’m sorry. Let me ask the question first.

Do the Cleveland Cavaliers have a shot at landing Phil Jackson?

No.

There we go.

After firing Byron Scott, the Cavs are on the prowl for a new coach, a search that has led them to none other than the Zen Master (via Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein of ESPN.com):

As they did eight years ago when he was in retirement, the Cleveland Cavaliers have reached out to Phil Jackson about their head coach opening, sources told ESPN.com.

The Cavs, who fired coach Byron Scott last Thursday, have been in touch with Jackson to gauge his interest in returning to coaching and in their open position. Last week, ESPN reported Jackson is increasingly interested in a return to the NBA next season, preferably in a management capacity, after two years away from the game.

Jackson interviewed with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert in 2005, when Gilbert was looking for a coach. That year, Gilbert ended up hiring Mike Brown.

Brown and the Cavs have mutual interest in a reunion. Gilbert and Brown met over dinner Sunday night, a league source confirmed.

First, and let me be oh so clear about this: Are the Cavaliers out of their damn minds considering Mike Brown again?

I’m not saying Brown’s a bad coach, because he’s not. He’s a solid one. But with Cleveland looking to lure LeBron James back to Ohio after next season, I’m thinking they should look elsewhere, rather than the guy who couldn’t win a title with The Chosen One in five tries. Again, he might not have gotten the fairest of shakes, but he’s now associated with losing with LeBron, and the Los Angeles Lakers debacle. So, stay away Cleveland. Look somewhere else.

But not at Jackson.

Okay, maybe you can look at him. Everybody has to. The 11-time coaching champion is considered the best sideline ambling presence there ever was by so many. Considering him for a vacant position is like a rite of passage. Yet, it’s also unrealistic.

In 20 years at the helm, Jackson’s teams have never finished below .500. That’s insane. It’s incredible. And it’s a streak that would die out in Cleveland next season should he give into the Cavs’ pursuit.

I don’t care how much of the Zen Master’s magic is worked by next season, the Cavaliers are not a playoff, or even an above .500 faction as is. Not even close. For Jackson to then realistically consider them, they’d have to land a serious free agent or two.

Which they won’t. Partly because they’re gearing up for the summer of 2014, but mostly because there’s really no franchise-altering targets available this year. Chris Paul and Dwight Howard fit the bill, but neither of them are going to sign in Cleveland. Especially Paul. And I laugh at those who toss out Josh Smith’s name.

The only way I see Jackson returning to a rebuilding team is via the front office. A relocated team like the potentially-relocated Seattle Supersonics would be an example. They’d be predictably bad for the first few years, but Jackson wouldn’t be coaching them, he’d be helping rebuild them. Should a spot open up in Dan Gilbert’s front office, then maybe we see Jackson consider a return in Cleveland.

For Jackson to return to the sidelines, I feel like a) the Lakers would have to fire Mike D’Antoni and give Phil another shot (unlikely), b) the Los Angeles Clippers would have to show Vinny Del Negro the door and Paul would have to sell Jackson on Tinseltown’s red-jerseyed step child (possible) or c) he’d have to accept the kind of, sort of open position with the Brooklyn Nets (eh).

I don’t foresee the Lakers firing D’Antoni, a move I agree with. I also can’t envision Jackson taking over the Nets unless they make a deep playoff run or he’s super desperate to return. Remember, he wouldn’t coach the New York Knicks because they were too “clumsy.” Brooklyn is even more restricted in its personnel and the potential moves they could make.

I won’t rule out the Clippers, but even that seems unlikely should a spot open up. Jackson has so much history with the Lakers and the Clippers have so much history with being bad or mediocre that it just doesn’t feel right.

Moral of the story is we’re not sure if Jackson will come back, what capacity he’ll do it in or who he’ll do it for.

What we can be confident is that he won’t make a return of any kind with Cavaliers.

Sorry, Cleveland.

Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.

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