Justice Is Served

May 26, 2010 12:50 PM

OK, ball's now in Danny Ferry's hand: Pass or shoot

Danny Ferry.jpgNow, Danny Ferry must go under scrutiny. Ferry is the last man standing in this disappointment of a season. It was his hands that sculpted these Cavaliers, and his hands that dispatched Mike Brown as their coach.

Looking at the Brown era in its totality, it wasn't as much as it should have been. All the pieces seemed to be there for more, but Brown produced not more with it but less. All of those pieces will need to go under the same scrutiny as Brown did.

For despite the won-loss record, the team Brown coached didn't achieve what people thought it should. The expectations of Ferry, Brown, the fans here and the players themselves, particularly their star LeBron James, were for an NBA title, a sparkling banner that would hang high inside the rafters at The Q like the sun over San Diego.

But The Q will be absent that NBA banner, and the city, the team and its fans will go without a championship another season. And Ferry will do some introspection, trying to figure out where it all came undone.

To blame Brown, as poorly prepared as he was to coach a team to a title, wouldn't be unjust. His failures were glaring. They played out in front of people's eyes night after night. He was a man who could see no faults, and if he did see them, he didn't have the coaching experience to fit them.

Brown is stall news these days. Whatever shortcomings the man had will play out in the history of the Cavaliers. He will be judged along side Paul Silas, Bill Fitch, Stan Albeck, Mike Fratello, Gene Littles, Chuck Daly, Mike Fratello, Lenny Wilkens and the others who failed to bring a championship to the city.

Ferry survives the purge with his duty remaining straightforward: cobble together a team capable of winning a championship - a team stronger and better coached than the one that took the court against the Celtics during this postseason.

How Ferry does the latter will test his Duke education. For Ferry's isn't an easy job; it's one that borders on mission impossible if he can't smooth-talk LeBron James into staying the course.

Nothing Ferry does will be as important as keeping his star player in Wine and Gold. He can hire Mr. Ed, Stevie Wonder or Betty White as Cavaliers coach if Ferry can assure fans that King James will be one of the talents on the court.

Without James, the Cavaliers will return to those sad-sack years under Lucas, Randy Wittman, Bill Musselman and others when the question was what would the team do with its No. 2 or No. 3 overall pick in the draft.

Nobody wants to revisit those inglorious days - no one in Cleveland, anyhow. People here have seen enough losing over the last half-century, and they pine for what has eluded them since 1964: a champion's parade downtown.

They had counted on James to bring one here this season. He didn't, and he might decide it isn't worth making another run at a championship while a Cavalier.

Ferry, however, has to convince him otherwise. He can't go out and hire a coach who will concede leadership to a player. Brown did, and it cost him his job. Ferry must find a coach who, if James returns, can squeeze greatness out of a talent who often talks about "team" while performing as a solo act.

A strong personality like James' presents problems for Ferry in terms of what he must look for in a new coach. Phil Jackson would make a dream hire. So would either Greg Popovich, Larry Brown or Jerry Sloan - coaches who are secure with whom they are and with their approach to managing egos.

Yet finding the right coach might be the easiest thing Ferry will have to do this offseason. He has a superstar he must hold on to or else witness all the hopes and aspirations he towed to Cleveland with him disappear like the white rabbit inside a magician's hat.

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