Sunday, June 13, 2010

The sincerest form of flattery

As the Cavaliers dive deeper into what is becoming an increasingly headline grabbing off-season, fans may be pondering if Dan Gilbert is getting dangerously close to emulating another young pro franchise owner who’s known more for splashy acquisitions than for his organization’s athletic success.

That’s not to say the Cavs don’t need to make changes. The team has been overmatched and outcoached in their last two playoff series’ losses - glaring failures that rightly fell at the feet of Mike Brown as well as a roster that still doesn’t have a second superstar to go along with LeBron James.

However, Gilbert’s dogged pursuit of Tom Izzo is eerily reminiscent of the logic-defying one-upmanship that has made the Washington Redskins’ cash-rich-but-championship-poor Dan Snyder one of the most divisive owners in sports. Snyder’s modus operandi since buying the ‘Skins in 1999 has been to chase the most coveted free agents on the market. The results speak for themselves, as Washington has enjoyed just three winning seasons during Snyder’s tenure.

Gilbert is operating under a different scenario, of course. The Cavs are coming off of a perplexing playoff punk-out while the team’s 260-pound prima donna superstar free agent prepares for a whirlwind wine-and-dine with a half-dozen major markets. In the owner’s eyes, that means it’s “go” time, with Mike Brown representing the first casualty of the Cavs’ post-season pratfall and Danny Ferry amicably following Brown out the door.

Now Gilbert’s in the decision-making forefront, and here’s where the situation is edging worrisomely into Snyder territory. While it’s natural that Gilbert wants to show his star that he'll do whatever is necessary to keep this organization among the tops in the NBA, throwing huge dollars at a college coach, even one with the pedigree of Izzo, smacks of star-f*cking desperation.

Is there anything to recommend Izzo as an NBA coach beyond the “wow” factor? The man certainly knows how to coach up a group of talented 18-21-year-old kids, but that doesn’t prove he knows a thing about juggling the egos of a group of coddled millionaires. And of course, the recent track record of college coaches making the translation to the pros is poor to the point of cliché.

The forthcoming Summer of LeBron, and the attendant tens of millions of dollars the franchise could lose upon James's departure, may be forcing Gilbert to sell the sizzle before considering the steak. Still, that unfortunate circumstance doesn't necessarily save the Cavs' owner from seeming like he's cribbing notes from the Snyder playbook.

If the end-all of this overture gets James to re-sign, many fans will consider the hiring a good one. All we could do then is hope that Izzo starts a new trend of college-to-NBA success, and Gilbert didn't just have stars in his eyes.