When LeBron James was still with the Cleveland Cavaliers, there was expected to be plenty of drama. Whenever the Cavaliers lost or James posted one of his many passive-aggressive social media posts, the sports media world would eat it up. With James now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, the circus would have left town too, right?
Well, not entirely.
With James now gone, Cleveland is an afterthought on the national stage. People would be hard-pressed to tune into ESPN to get quality Cavaliers highlights. Instead, they would hear all about the constant drama coming off of the shores of Lake Erie.
The amount of games the Cavaliers have played has not even reached double digits and the team has a full season’s worth of incidents. The most recent event was the firing of former Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue. The reasons Cleveland gave for letting go of the best coach in franchise history were simple: Lue just was not a good fit for the rebuilding Cavaliers roster. Seems pretty cut and dry, right? Well, the fallout from Lue’s dismissal is the latest batch of drama in a story that just will not go away.
Since Lue was fired so early into the season, the logical thing to do would be to find an in-house successor to hold things over until next offseason. The Cavaliers did exactly that when they announced that associate head coach Larry Drew would be named the team’s next head coach, albeit on an interim basis. Well, Drew had other plans by telling the media that he is not the interim head coach of the Cavaliers, but rather “the voice” of the team. Now Cleveland’s front office has egg all over its face as it appears that it did not have a serious plan if Lue was ever to be fired.
The reason why Drew will not accept the interim coaching position? Like every other job dispute, it comes down to money. Before being named interim head coach, Drew was one of the highest paid assistants in the NBA, making nearly $1 million this season. Naturally, Drew would want a bump in pay with the new title along with some job security, as the Cavaliers are on the path to be one of the worst teams in the NBA this year. The Cavaliers must see otherwise as they are also actively looking for an outside hire while Drew holds down the fort. Cleveland is reported to be negotiating an agreeable deal with Drew, but his future as Cleveland’s coach is uncertain. Firing your head coach is already tough, but firing your interim interim head coach weeks later is rife with drama and fitting of Cleveland.
All while Cleveland is negotiating with the voice of the team, the organization is also in a legal battle with another former coach. Former Cleveland assistant Jim Boylan filed a lawsuit Thursday against the team alleging age discrimination after his option was not picked up this summer. In the lawsuit, Boylan provided a transcript from a voicemail left by then-coach Lue informing him that the team would be going in a different direction. According to the transcript, Cleveland general manager Koby Altman told Lue that the team was, “not gonna pay that kind of money for three assistants on the bench. He wants to go younger in that position and, you know, find somebody who’s a grinder and younger in that position.” Soon after Boylan (61) and the Cavaliers parted ways, the team hired or promoted Damon Jones (42), Terry Nooner (40), Mike Gerrity (32) and Dan Geriot (29).
When Forbes reached out to the Cavaliers organization for comment, they had this to say about Boylan’s lawsuit:
“The outrageousness of Mr. Boylan’s claim of ‘age discrimination’ due to the Cavaliers not exercising an option in a contract both parties signed cannot be overstated. This frivolous lawsuit is simply an opportunistically-timed effort at a shameless cash grab. The team will seek immediate dismissal of this disappointing, unwarranted and baseless claim.”
Cleveland is under fire from all fronts when it comes to coaching, and it keeps driving home the narrative that the Cavaliers are an unstable organization. Even if the Cavaliers were not to keep Larry Drew after this season, why would any serious candidate consider Cleveland? The Cavaliers are on their sixth coach in nine years with Drew, and clearly, job security is not a guarantee in the organization. The Boylan lawsuit is just another reason to deter serious coaching candidates as well. If the organization wants to build a serious contender in the wake of James’ exit, they need to establish stability from the top down.
To do that, there are some pretty easy solutions to Cleveland’s woes. When it comes to Drew, just give him the money he wants. It is natural to play hardball when it comes to negotiating money, but when Drew is going to add plenty of losses to his coaching record he should have some kind of incentive for it. With Boylan’s lawsuit, the Cavaliers should look to do the opposite of the Drew dilemma and take care of it as quickly as possible. Both of these issues have tarnished the legitimacy of the Cavaliers’ brand, and the organization has to move swiftly to prevent further damage.
There never truly is a dull moment when it comes to this team, and this latest coaching drama is just another chapter in Cleveland’s never-ending story. Hopefully, things settle down soon so the Cavaliers stop being the butt of every NBA joke. Cleveland needs to obtain some form of stability as quickly as possible since the next coaching hire they make needs to be the right one. With any luck, the drama will subside by then too.