Friday, November 11
Mike Brown doesn't just talk the talk about defense.
by Joe Gabriele
November 11 -- I have to think that Mike Brown is not your typical NBA head coach. I’ll explain in a second.
After the Cavaliers finished getting tuned up for the Grizzlies with their last full practice before the weekend, Mike Brown, as he always does, took questions from the media. His focus on defense is razor sharp and in no session does the rookie coach not emphasize its importance.
Yesterday, after he had worked his men out, he gave them a chance for some fun. And the opportunity to win a coat – a donated black parka, to be exact. The coat would be won by the Cavalier who hit the last shot from just inside the pro three point line and just outside the college three down on the Cavaliers practice court at The Q.
It was a rousing contest, but in the end – and much to the players’ delight – it was Martynas Andriuskevicius who took the contest and the coat, drilling his final shot after Alan Henderson had missed.
“We got a lot out of (today’s practice), but I wish we could have gone longer,” said Brown, who’s always equal parts intense and open. “I know we’ve been playing a ton of games in a short amount of days. I have to be conscious of that and cautious of that. The guys have done everything that I have asked and their giving me everything that I want.”
Brown then talked about the need for his club to turn up the defense even more as Mike Fratello, Brown’s predecessor six-times removed, brings his high scoring Grizzlies to the Gund. Brown is determined that the Cavaliers will not give up 113 points on Friday, as they did six days earlier in a loss at the FedEx Forum.
When Brown began talking about weak side defense and the need to “sink and fill” he must have seen some quizzical looks, because in mid-media session, Brown took us, along with Cavaliers VP of Communications Tad Carper out on the practice court for a tutorial. “Don’t be shy,” he implored as he positioned us around the floor.
Just outside the three-point arc, foul-line-extended, the Akron Beacon-Journal’s fine beat writer Brian Windhurst guarded Tad. The News-Herald’s Bob Finan was at the top of the key and on the other wing was Cavaliers assistant coach, Melvin Hunt. I guarded Northern Ohio Live’s Larry Durstin on the low block. (I had a size disadvantage, but I make up for it with my tenacity.)
Brown walked us through different defenses, making sure that we keep our “butts to the baseline” and kept us on a string – when the ball moves, we move.
Three things came to mind as Brown walked us through the paces. One, the game is more complex than people, even us media shills, think – especially when you consider that during all this defensive procedure, it’s possible if not likely to get a forearm in the chops from a guy who’s 6-7, 240.
Second, that Mike Brown genuinely loves to teach. He would have been just as happy to bring The Q’s housekeeping staff out on the court to teach them to sink and fill. When he talks about his passion for defense, it is not lip service.
And the third thing is that he is really a great guy. I haven’t heard of an NBA coach taking the time to walk reporters through a defensive scheme. I would have to think that most NBA coaches don’t even feel like talking about it.
That’s the beauty of Mike Brown. And it’s genuine.
I guess that’s the reason Brown blew everyone away throughout his career and through the hiring process this off-season. Everyone who knows Mike Brown, digs Mike Brown.
The season’s only five games old, but soon, you will too.
-- Joe Gabriele