Defensive Minded Hire to Improve Cavaliers' Odds at a Title

David Lawrence

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 5:15 PM UTC

Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 5:15 PM UTC

One of the lingering doubts about the Cleveland Cavaliers was and still is its coaching staff. The organization and its head coach both tried to address that deficiency on Tuesday. Let’s take a look at what hiring former Bucks head coach Larry Drew means for the organization.

What This Means For The Cavaliers
Do assistant coaches win championships? It’s hard to say that they do in most situations. Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, Chuck Daly, Larry Brown, Gregg Popovich, Rick Carlisle, Rudy Tomjanovich. These great coaches from the past 25 years of NBA history were the men their players respected. They were the men who held together the locker rooms in which they coached. They were the men who provided the right mixture of encouragement and tough love in various moments over the course of a long season, especially in the playoffs and in certain points of great pressure, points when a crisis either existed or seemed to be just around the corner. Head coaches make their men run through walls. However, sometimes, assistant coaches do matter.

Tom Thibodeau helped Doc Rivers win in Boston with the Celtics. That much seems clear, especially since Rivers was not able to take the Los Angeles Clippers deep into the 2014 playoffs. Jackson had Tex Winter at his side, developing and tweaking the triangle offense in Chicago with the Bulls and in Los Angeles with the Lakers. Pat Riley had Bill Bertka as a longtime assistant with the Lakers. Daly had Brendan Suhr as his right-hand man with the Detroit Pistons. Some assistant coaches can be valuable. Really valuable.

For the Cleveland Cavaliers, it seems that an assistant coach might matter more than for a lot of other NBA teams. The Cavaliers are unique in that their current head coach comes from Israel and international basketball. Other NBA teams have considered hiring European or overseas coaches, but the Cavaliers actually took the plunge, and they did so before LeBron James had made it clear that he was going to come back to Cleveland to play for the 2014-2015 season. Since David Blatt was coming from Israel, he definitely needed a steady assistant who knew how to coach NBA players. Getting an ex-head coach, which Larry Drew is, should really boost the quality of the Cavs’ staff. Blatt can still be the leader, but Drew can be an important voice as an assistant. Drew had no chance to succeed with the Milwaukee Bucks (15-67 in one season), and he is motivated since the Bucks cruelly pushed him out in favor of Jason Kidd. Drew did a decent job with the Atlanta Hawks, never suffering a losing season in three tries. He won 44 games in two 82-game seasons, 40 in the 66-game 2012 season shortened by labor strife. Cleveland appears to have done something very, very smart here.

How To Bet The News
Drew is a defensive-minded coach who’ll boost the team at that end of the court. Although he didn’t get a fair shake in Milwaukee last year, he helped the Atlanta Hawks – also a team that wasn’t particularly talented – finish in the Top 15 of defense and his three seasons from 2010-2013. Two of those years, they were in the top nine.  

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