Since LeBron James announced that he was taking his talents to South Beach on ESPN, seven different coaches have been at the helm for the Cleveland Cavaliers. There have been veterans, first-timers and disasters aplenty.
There was even a familiar face who led the team for five years before being fired and then re-hired a few years later. Read on as we rank all seven of the coaches to spend time leading the Cavs in the past decade.
7) John Beilein (14-40)
John Beilein was not a good fit for the Cavs to begin with. He coached at every level of college basketball for the last several decades. He had a fantastic system in place at Michigan, where he took two teams to the National Championship game. But, none of this translated to the NBA.
He had a hard time getting guys that have already been playing professionally to listen to him. He called his guys “thugs”, instead of “slugs”, marking one of the weirdest Freudian slips I have ever heard. Either way, it’s not a good look. Despite being forgiven by most of the guys, this didn’t get forgotten.
He wasn’t sure how to space the minutes between Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, so he had the most recent #5 pick playing about four minutes in the first quarter and then getting a long rest.
He hurt player development, he couldn’t get the team to rally behind him, and he and the Cavs mutually parted ways after 54 games. It’s a forgettable experience.
6) Larry Drew (19-57)
Larry Drew had three memorable years at the helm for the Atlanta Hawks, taking them to the playoffs each time. Then he took the Bucks job, and the team went 15-67 in his lone, tumultuous season over there. He took an assistant job with the Cavs a few years later, and when Ty Lue was fired after an 0-6 start in 2018-19, he was appointed as head coach.
The problem is that Drew never wanted the job, and was sort of forced to take it. The team wouldn’t give him the long-term extension as he asked for, so he was the interim leader for all of 76 games. The team didn’t win much, and didn’t seem to play all that hard.
The Cavs best days, it’s safe to say, have happened and will continue to with Larry Drew not on staff.
5) Byron Scott (64-166)
The Byron Scott era happened just as LeBron bolted for Miami. The Cavs were expected to lose a lot, and they did. But Byron Scott wasn’t a total failure as the coach here. He helped instill confidence in a young Kyrie, and was part of giving several D-League players their first NBA opportunity.
64 wins in three years isn’t very good obviously, but he was a good voice for the team. There were probably better options than Scott for those years, but he came in and did the best he could with a pretty incapable roster. When Scott was fired, Mike Brown returned.
4) Mike Brown (33-49)
Mike Brown coached LeBron for five years in Cleveland, before James left for Miami. And in an attempt to try and get him to stay, the team fired Brown and tried to hire Tom Izzo from Michigan State. You all know how that went. (Spoiler: not very well)
Brown led the Cavs to a 33-49 record in his lone season upon his Cleveland return. This was a nine-win improvement from the Cavs of the year before. They even had a six-game winning streak. And his re-firing didn’t make a lot of sense (so we thought).
The team was playing some solid basketball. They even competed for a playoff spot with the Knicks until March. But, they fired him (again) because they thought they had a chance to bring LeBron back. A reunion could have worked too.
But they hired the inexperienced (in NBA years) David Blatt to lead a continued “rebuilding” effort. They ended up with LeBron, and trading two #1 overall picks for Kevin Love. And of course, Mike Brown was officially gone again.
3) David Blatt (83-40)
How many coaches get fired after posting an 83-40 record, just two wins short of an NBA title? How about starting a season 30-11 and then being surprisingly fired from your job? The answer, is (1) David Blatt.
Everything we know about the weird year-and-a-half of Blatt comes from rumors and Cleveland reporters. But, Blatt did a great job. He didn’t have much to work with in the 2015 Finals thanks to injuries, so he used a 7-man rotation. But, he had the confidence in Matthew Dellavedova to ride him out in that series, which made him (Delly) a Cleveland hero forever.
It was the locker room issues that led to his abrupt firing, and the hiring of Ty Lue. But Blatt was tasked with rebuilding the Cavs, and then LeBron shows up. The spotlight was on the team from day one. He never had a fair shake, but he made the most of his NBA opportunity.
2) JB Bickerstaff (5-6)
How is a coach that has only had 11 games at the helm already the second-best of the past 10 years? I’ll tell you why. He’s a natural-born leader. Guys play hard for him. He’s done creative things with the lineup that have worked. He took a 14-40 team and led them to wins in five out of the next 11 games they played.
JB Bickerstaff is no stranger to taking over as head coach during the season. He did it in Memphis when David Fizdale was fired. He did it in Houston when Kevin McHale got the hook. And now in Cleveland, too. He’s somebody that has the respect of his peers wherever he’s the coach.
The wins may not be visible on his current resume, but that is going to change in Cleveland. When all is said and done, maybe he’ll challenge the #1 candidate for best Cavs coach in a long time.
1) Ty Lue (128-83)
Ty Lue took over for the Cavs when David Blatt got the midseason boot in 2015-16. It was a tall task to now be leading the team with LeBron James on it, and having to win a title or face being crucified by the sports media world. Lue took the task thrown at him, and ran with it.
With a healthy Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, the Cavs were now better equipped to face the 73-9 Warriors, owners of the best record in NBA History. Even when they trailed 3 games to 1, they never gave up, making one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.
Lue was the leader. He managed the egos (there were definitely egos) very well, and made sure everybody was happy and on the same page. He played Kyrie for the entire second-half of game 7. He had the guys believing they could make history, and they did.
The fact that he was 1-25 in games LeBron didn’t play in during his time means nothing. It just shows that when the Cavs were at full strength, Lue led them to wins.
Thank you for everything, Ty Lue. Crush it with the Clippers.