Drew deserves credit, but the Cavs made the right decision

Larry Drew did his part, now it's Koby Altman's turn

James Rapien
April 11, 2019 - 10:01 pm
DENVER, COLORADO - JANUARY 19: Head coach Larry Drew of the Cleveland Cavaliers works the sidelines against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on January 19, 2019 in Denver, Colorado.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images


Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The Cavaliers and Larry Drew officially parted ways on Thursday afternoon. The move wasn’t a surprise.

Drew helped bring a championship to Cleveland in 2016. That’s the year most people will remember, but the veteran coach did his best work this season.

The 61-year-old was thrown into the fire just six games into the year when the Cavaliers fired Ty Lue. Drew’s best player was injured, he had a disgruntled veteran who wasn’t willing to help the young players on the roster, a rookie point guard who was learning how to be an NBA player and plenty other issues that any coach would struggle with.

Drew could’ve gone through the motions and the result would’ve been the same. No one believed this organization was going to bring him back. He wasn’t even sure if he wanted to be a head coach anymore.

Instead of mailing it in, he helped lay a foundation that the Cavaliers hope to build on this offseason. He didn’t complain about the hand he was dealt. He handled things like a professional and helped guide this team through one of its’ most challenging seasons.

“I can clearly say that I checked the boxes of what I had to accomplish, and I’m very proud of what I’ve done and my staff along with what we’ve had to endure,” Drew said on Tuesday. “I’m comfortable with what took place.”

If the organization establishes a new identity moving forward, then Drew deserves partial credit. The team played hard for him every night. Drew helped Collin Sexton develop into a legitimate NBA player. He earned the respect of Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr. and other veterans on the roster. It’s hard to keep a team afloat, especially one that dealt with so much adversity during the season. There were trades, injuries, mistakes and a lot of losses, but Drew kept a level head through all of it and that rubbed off on his players.

“LD was outstanding,” Nance said after Tuesday’s season finale. “It’s not an easy job. That was not an easy position he got put into six games into the season – here are the reigns, figure it out. That’s exactly what he did. He got us on the right path, and it would’ve been easy for him to mail it in too.

“A year like this, this isn’t fun. Losing isn’t fun. Being able to keep a positive attitude and keep moving forward at the rate that we did I think was a lot in part to Larry Drew and I’m a big fan.”

Drew helped guide this franchise through the storm. They ended the season having lost 10-straight games, but their 7-7 stretch after the All-Star break gives them a reason to believe next season will be different. Drew not only gave the players hope that next season could be different, but also put the organization in a spot to land one of the best players in the 2019 NBA Draft. He didn’t push back when the front office took a long-term approach with the moves they made.

The Cavaliers believe a core that includes Love, Sexton, Nance and two first round draft picks will help guide the organization back to the playoffs.

That core will include a new coach. Drew did a great job in his time with the Cavaliers and deserves credit, but does anyone truly believe he was going to be the coach that helped guide the Cavaliers back to prominence in the Eastern Conference?

Drew was a Band-Aid the organization put on a wound that required surgery. James’ departure left a gash that could take a while to heal. Drew helped the cause, but the Cavs need someone who can finish the job.

They’re looking for an up-and-coming coach who can build this team the correct way. Their next coach is expected keep the team together through adversity like Drew did, while also bringing a new culture to the organization.

The Cavaliers will conduct a thorough search that will involve plenty of NBA assistants and college coaches. They’re making the right decision.

It would be easy to look at what Drew did and bring him back for another season. Veterans like Love and Nance would probably like the move. Instead, the Cavaliers are looking for a coach that can be everything Drew was and then some. That’s what good organizations do. Don’t hang onto the past. The Boston Celtics are one of the best franchises in sports. They traded a great coach in Doc Rivers and found Brad Stevens.

The Cavaliers need to move forward. They need to find their Stevens. They have a general manager in Koby Altman who hasn’t hired a coach yet. This is his chance to make a mark. Looking for the next star coach is exactly what he should be doing.

Tom Izzo will always be connected to the team because of his ties to Dan Gilbert. Names like Luke Walton and David Joerger will also be mentioned. The Cavs can’t get caught up in the biggest name. They need to find the best coach. That could mean someone you’ve never heard of like Utah’s Alex Jensen. The Cavaliers don’t need the big splash. They plan on conducting a thorough search in hopes of finding a ladder climber who can thrive in Cleveland.

They’re approaching this process with the correct mindset, but the hard part is finding the right coach.

Drew helped lay the foundation; it’s up to Altman and Gilbert to bring in someone who can finish the build.