The Cleveland Cavaliers were the best team in the NBA in the regular season, they won over 60 games for the second straight year, and they had the two-time MVP on their side. They went into the playoffs with high expectations, but their dream season turned into a nightmare thanks to the Boston Celtics. After the Cavs loss, many people pointed to the coach. It’s usually the way it goes. The coach is often the fall guy in these circumstances. And after another disappointing season for the Cavs and an offseason full of questions when it comes to the future of LeBron James in Cleveland, owner Dan Gilbert decided it was time to make a change. Former Coach of the Year and the winningest Coach in Cavs franchise history, Mike Brown, was fired yesterday and now it becomes an even tougher situation for a team that looked like a legitimate championship contender in February as they head into the “Summer of LeBron” without knowing who will coach the team moving forward.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas joined ESPN 850 WKNR in Cleveland with Michael Reghi to talk about whether or not the loss against Boston was all Mike Brown’s fault, whether or not he thinks the Celtics wanted it more than the Cavs, and how tough this offseason will be for the Cavs.
On the disappointment of another early exit and who is to blame:
“Obviously we were all disappointed. Starting with the coaching staff and ending with the players. I think we all should bear the responsibility. I don’t think it should all be on the head coach or anything like that. A lot of it is on us, the players. We didn’t perform like we wanted to or like we should have. Some of it has to be on the coaches because we lost but not all of it. We have to share that if we’re gonna be honest with ourselves.”
On whether or not it is fair to say that the Celtics wanted it more:
“Yeah. I think so. That’s a fair assessment. I think as a group we underestimated them. I think we kinda bought into all this stuff that they are growing a little older and they didn’t finish the season on the right foot. A lot of people, even us thought that they might not have gotten out of the first round against Miami. They obviously proved us wrong and they’re playing the best basketball that they are playing in a long time. They outhustled us, they outplayed us, and they seemed like they wanted it more which is weird because it’s the playoffs and that shouldn’t be an issue but it was.”
On whether or not people became upset with a lack of playing time and there were other things happening:
“It could be. Maybe we did have too many players, who knows? We all think we should be playing 30 minutes. But the reality is that’s not the truth. I think we had a good gameplan coming in. One thing about Coach Brown is he does make you prepare and we went through all the different scenarios and this and that. I think we mighta not have been appreciative of Rondo. We concentrated on the Big Three so much to begin the series and we kinda figured we would just live with him getting his own which proved to be a big mistake. We had a good game plan going in. When stuff is not going your way or you get down thirty points at home, there’s going to be some arguing during the game because the emotions are running high. Each game we went into play, guys were ready to go and they were ready to play. I didn’t sense, at least before the game, any quitting or disagreement or any kind of rumbling. During the game it’s different because emotions are running high and especially when you get down. We won game three and it seemed like the series was ours. Next thing you know, we were one loss away from going home. It just happened so quickly honestly. When I was at home it was really hard to put your mind around what happened.”
On whether or not he was surprised with Mike Brown’s firing:
“It always seems like that’s what happens in situations like these. It’s kinda weird because it took like 10 days or something like that because it usually happens overnight you know. I don’t know. I started thinking maybe they’re gonna keep Coach Brown and bring in an older coach, I don’t know. My big thing was if you do fire Coach Brown, what are you gonna put in his place? There are not a lot of very good coaches out there and the ones that are, have jobs. It’s easy to fire somebody but then you have to replace him with something and I guess that’s going to be a tough job to do.”
On whether or not he understands how tough this offseason will be on the fans:
“Yeah, I understand. This is a tough situation. This franchise is in a tough situation. You have one of the greatest players that will ever play the game when all is said and done, two-time MVP and he’s coming up on free agency. You don’t have a coach and you’re disappointed from an early playoff exit. It’s a lot of question marks that they are going to have to answer, but like you said, no matter what kind of coach, anybody can throw out any kind of coach…whether it’s a college coach or a pro coach with a good resume, if they have any kind of common sense they are not going to come here until LeBron commits here. If I was the coach that the Cavs would be interested in, I would say ‘is LeBron going to be here?’ If they say ‘we don’t know,’ then I would say ‘well come back to me when you do?’ That’s the reality of the business.”