John Belein will leave his post as Cavaliers head coach, ESPN reported on Tuesday night, and associate coach J.B. Bickerstaff will take the reins of the team in a full-time capacity.
Beilein’s tenure was short-lived with few positives to take away. He rarely appeared on the same page as his players, with a film session incident in which he called players “thugs” the best-known example of his pro shortcomings. Cleveland went 14-40 under his watch.
Given the longtime Michigan coach’s success in the college ranks, it’s possible he returns to the NCAA level in the near future.
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The Cavaliers hope they can now find some much-needed stability with Bickerstaff at the helm.
Here’s a look at the new full-time head coach, who has prior experience in this position with two other organizations:
Who is J.B. Bickerstaff?
Bickerstaff, the son of former NBA coach Bernie Bickerstaff, played college basketball at Oregon State and Minnesota.
Bickerstaff joined the staff of the Charlotte Bobcats as an assistant in 2004 and spent three seasons there before moving on to assistant roles with the Timberwolves and Rockets. He was promoted to the Rockets’ interim head coach position on Nov. 8, 2015 after Kevin McHale was fired. Houston went 37-34 under Bickerstaff and lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Warriors. While that team was viewed as a disappointment, an incoherent roster featuring little help around James Harden was largely to blame.. Dwight Howard was miscast, Clint Capela had yet to emerge and inefficient veterans littered the team’s rotation. It would be harsh to place too much blame on an interim leader for the first-round exit.
That offseason, Bickerstaff removed his name from the Rockets’ head coaching search and join the Grizzlies in an associate head coach role. On Nov. 27, 2017, Bickerstaff was once again promoted to interim head coach after the Grizzlies fired David Fizdale. Memphis went 15-48 in Bickerstaff’s first season and missed the playoffs. Still, the Grizzlies promoted Bickerstaff to a full-time role for the 2018-2019 season. After another playoff miss, though, Memphis fired him.
In three seasons as a head coach (two in an interim position), Bickerstaff has compiled a record of 85-131 (.394 winning percentage).
What does J.B. Bickerstaff have to work with?
Not much. The Cavaliers are just about the most dysfunctional team in the league right now, with perhaps only the Knicks in worse shape. They have two centers who can’t shoot and are likely to be free agents this offseason (Andre Drummond, Tristan Thompson), a veteran forward unhappy to be wasting his final productive years on a losing team (Kevin Love) and a cast of youngsters yet to prove themselves capable of becoming franchise cornerstones (Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Kevin Porter Jr.).
Any sign of progress, then, would be seen as a success for Bickerstaff, and he could gain a high-caliber rookie in the upcoming draft class. As long as the Cavaliers’ 2020 pick lands in the top-10, they get to keep it.