Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Learning curve hits Dan G.

In the haze and humidity that camped over Lake Erie Monday, Dan Gilbert's private jet bounced around like a pinball on his way into Cleveland for his press conference to introduce Danny Ferry as general manager.

He showed up at (Your Ad Here) Arena looking a little green and with some sweat on his brow. For the first time, I felt like he was grasping exactly what he'd gotten himself into. The long, hard process he'd just gone through showed all over his face. And, frankly, I think that's a good thing.

Four weeks ago when we assembled at the arena for Mike Brown's press conference, it was grandly staged on the practice court on the fourth floor with fine Danish and orange juice, stages for cameras and the honored guests. Gilbert was in a well-selected and wonderfully tailored suit. He had props and jokes prepared and he drilled the media for the Larry Brown rumors and their so-called lies. He explained away his decision to hire a coach before a GM and told us how he was going to hire a president and a vice president/general manager.

Monday no one wore a suit in a cramped room deep in the arena bowels and there were no props or fancy foods. It was done on the run, just like Gilbert's hiring of Ferry as owner now explained that no, he didn't need a president now. Peaking around the 8-ball, he admitted he could no longer wait on Larry Brown and do so in the humblest of manners.

Everyone I spoke with who interviewed with Gilbert and his fellow owners praised him and said they think he'll be a great owner. I said I didn't think he knew what he was getting himself into at all and his brashness resembled Nero fiddling as Rome burned.

He thought he could sell his team with confidence, energy and slick marketing like it was an interest-only loan. But in the end it was Ferry holding Gilbert over the fire. Ferry doesn't need Gilbert's money and really didn't need a job, even though he wanted it. So he laid down the terms and Gilbert, feeling the intense pressure of holding his shredded plan together, and made the deal.

I think this was a very, very valuable learning experience for the new ownership, one that will ultimately help them as they move forward. Gilbert became a better owner after going through these last six weeks and it will show up down the road. It was something that needed to happen.

Danny Ferry and Mike Brown are two of the best young minds in the NBA and the Cavs have some bullets to fire that could make this next month and upcoming season very exciting. The problem is, this next month may largely determine how their tenures go. So stay tuned.

For some great stuff, also check out my notebook from today with stuff on Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Larry Brown and more.

Take care,