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Cavaliers fire coach J.B. Bickerstaff despite some progress and getting to second round of playoffs

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff watches his team.
Phil Long
Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff watches his team against the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Cleveland, Wednesday, April 10, 2024.

J.B. Bickerstaff was fired as Cleveland’s coach on Thursday despite leading the Cavaliers through an injury-ravaged season and into the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Bickerstaff’s dismissal came one week after the Cavs were eliminated in five games by the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Cleveland played the final two games of the series without All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, who played over two months with a left knee injury before he hurt his calf in the closing minutes of Game 4 against the Celtics.

Mitchell has to decide whether to sign a long-term contract extension with the club this summer, and his future may have impacted the team moving on from Bickerstaff, who made incremental progress in each of his four-plus seasons with Cleveland but not enough to keep his job.

“J.B. is a well-respected NBA coach and an incredible human being,” said Koby Altman, Cleveland’s president of basketball operations. ”Over the past four years, he helped establish a culture that progressively drove players to become the best versions of themselves. Decisions like these are never easy, particularly when you look back at where this franchise rebuild started under his leadership.

“The NBA is a unique business that sometimes requires aggressive risk-taking to move a franchise forward and ultimately compete for championships. We owe a ton of gratitude for everything J.B. has contributed to the Cavaliers and his engagement in the Cleveland community.”

The 45-year-old Bickerstaff went 170-159 in the regular season and 6-11 in the playoffs with Cleveland, which defeated Orlando in seven games before losing to Boston.

The series win over the Magic was the first for the Cavaliers without LeBron James on their roster since 1993.

Bickerstaff took over for John Beilein midway through the 2020 season. He was under contract through 2026.