As the second half of the 2019-2020 NBA has just commenced, John Beilein’s days as the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers are done. Beilein was in his first season as the head coach of the Cavaliers, and his team struggled. Through 54 games, the Cavs 14-40 record was the worst in the Eastern Conference, while only the Golden State Warriors have a worse record than them in the NBA. Cleveland has been hampered by several lengthy losing streaks which included going 1-14 over a 15-game stretch during a portion of November and December, while Beilein also clashed with players as he once referenced to them as “a bunch of thugs” during a film session. And as Beilein wasn’t going to be a Coach of the Year candidate this season, should anyone with an average or above average basketball I.Q. be surprised at the results that the Cavaliers have gotten on the hardwood under him?
Beilein is a lifetime college head coach as prior to joining the Cavaliers this season, he had never coached at the professional level. Beilein is also 67-years of age as their was a definite age disconnect with his team as the Cavaliers roster is one of the youngest rosters in the NBA. But with all of that, Beilein was set up to fail before the ink dried on his contract in Cleveland, and even though that he knew what he was getting into, there is plenty of blame to be heaped upon Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman, as well as team owner Dan Gilbert.
Since Gilbert purchased the Cavs in 2005, only two of his five head coaching hires had previous experience as head coaches in the NBA. Gilbert has been notorious for making questionable personnel moves which includes never offering any of his general managers a second contract, while his front office always ranks near the bottom of salary in the NBA for their respective positions. Altman is in his first go round as a general manager in the NBA, and he’s been tasked with making the Cavaliers relevant again following the departure of LeBron James in free agency in 2018. And as expected, the Cavs are once again a joke following James’ departure.
But aside from James leaving, Ty Lue was fired as the Cavaliers head coach six games into the 2018-2019 NBA season in spite of the fact that he helped them win the title in 2016. Lue was then replaced by Larry Drew who in spite of leading Cleveland to a 19-57 mark last season, was someone who was respected by the players. And instead of either retaining Lue, or Drew (who’ve each been around the block in NBA circles) the Cavaliers went with a stubborn Beilein who could not adapt to his players or the NBA game as a whole.
Beilein found out really quick that in the pros, it’s the players who dictate things, and not the head coaches. Beilein couldn’t dangle a scholarship, or playing time over any of the Cavaliers players because the majority of them are earning more money than he did. And as Beilein was no longer the big man on campus, it was only going to be a matter of time before he wore out his welcome in Cleveland.
The only credit that I can give the Cavaliers in this fiasco is that at least they realized after 54 games that this was not going to work out, and all parties involved have now moved on. But even though that Beilein is no longer the Cavaliers head coach, this franchise is still mismanaged as instead of moving the contracts of power forward Tristan Thompson, or Kevin Love prior to the NBA’s trade deadline earlier this month, Cleveland instead opted to take on the contract of center Andre Drummond from the Detroit Pistons.
Like Thompson, Drummond is a rebounder with limited scoring ability which is not what the Cavs needed as they should have made the move to part with Thompson and Love to a contender in order to obtain assets in the form of young players, or draft picks, while also freeing up salary obligations.
But in looking at the last few weeks for the Cavaliers, it’s no reason why the Beilein experiment never worked as their was a huge disconnect between coach and players, while the front office in Cleveland is attempting to learn on the fly about assembling a team. And unlike it was in the summer of 2014, there isn’t a rescue package in the form of LeBron returning to Northern Ohio to rescue this franchise as this season is just the tip of the iceberg of things to come for an organization that is once again an afterthought in the NBA.