© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Bringing you a new perspective on Ohio sports every Wednesday morning.

Cavaliers are taking their time in search to replace J.B. Bickerstaff

Former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff watches his team during an April game.
Phil Long
Former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff looks on against the Memphis Grizzlies during an NBA basketball game in April. The search for his replacement is ongoing

The Cleveland Cavaliers are considering a growing list of names as they wrap up the second week in their head coaching search.

Ideastream Public Media’s sports commentator Terry Pluto said the team plans to talk to as many as 10 current NBA assistant coaches.

“When the Cavaliers fired J.B. Bickerstaff, I talked about, well, if you do decide to change coaches and go away from a coach who had been here for four-and-a-half years and shown progress every year and got you to the second round of the playoffs, the question is, if not J.B. Bickerstaff, then who?" Pluto said. "And that's where we are right now. We're in the ‘then who?’ stage,”

Pluto said one thing the Cavs have on their side is time. They’re one of just two teams currently searching for a head coach.

“The Lakers and the Cavs. That's it," Pluto said. "So, if the Cavs had one or two guys in mind and there were, say, five teams looking for coaches, they might be moving faster. But right now they could take their time."

And he believes the Cavs and Lakers are taking different approaches in their searches.

“The Lakers have LeBron James who's a free agent. But they're trying to kind of -- we've seen this before -- tailor a coach to LeBron James," Pluto said. "That's what's going on in LA. And then the Cavs are just looking for that coach who could take them beyond the second round in the playoffs,” Pluto said.

Pluto said the top candidates appear to be Golden State assistant Kenny Atkinson and New Orleans assistant James Borrego.

“This is not a year when they go look for a coach and you say, ‘Oh boy, you got to get that guy'," Pluto said. "You know, he won a title a few years ago or whatever. It's sort of guys who have been around the league and been assistants for quite a while."

Pluto said he’s not sure how that aligns with the idea that the Cavs want a coach who can lead them to a championship.

“This is why I was very reluctant to say firing Bickerstaff was a good idea because I didn't see any wonderful alternatives," Pluto said. "Now, sometimes you hire a coach who'd been an assistant and never did anything anywhere, and he gets to be head coach and bang-o, he does very well."

He said the two coaches in the NBA Finals are a good example.

“One is Joe Mazzulla, who was a career assistant with the Boston Celtics [and] took over a couple of years ago and he has the team in the Finals." Pluto said. "And then the other is Jason Kidd, a former NBA player [who] bounced around a little bit, never had a whole lot of success. He's with the Dallas Mavericks and they're in the Finals. I think part of the challenge is it isn't like there's a certain prototype that works."

And Pluto said he doesn’t have an idea of who among their list of candidates would be the best fit.

“A couple of people that I trust in the NBA like this Kenny Atkinson guy, the Golden State assistant," Pluto said. "But I mean, there are some guys that are interviewing now that – I’m not even going to get into the list of names – they’re just guys who have been career assistants. You're almost like putting a bunch of pictures of guys on the wall, and they are guys who have been either assistants or head coaches, you kind of like them. You might as well blindfold yourself and throw a dart up there at the 6 or 7 names and see which one you hit, and go with that one."

Expertise: Audio storytelling, journalism and production