Mark Price is the best available head coaching candidate for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This is not a question of nostalgia, but rather a matter of practicality and reality. Price, while by far the most popular Cavalier in the history of the franchise, has the playing experience and success to demand respect, the technical expertise to help mold a young team’s skills, and the background of having worked for and with some of the most accomplished head coaches in the history of the NBA.
The 2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers were famously terrible on defense, allowing a league high 47.6% FG against, the Cavs also only managed 43.4% FG themselves, second worst in basketball.
There is not a living man more qualified to address shooting issues than Mark Price. To help create that 12 to 15 foot Tristan Thompson jump shot. To improve Dion Waiters shot selection. To help prevent prolonged Tyler Zeller shooting slumps. To provide whatever is necessary to turn Kyrie Irving into one of the greatest shooters and point guards of all time.
Moreover, to provide immeasurable intangibiles to a team in need of direction in how to act as a team instead of a collection of individuals, to turn five fingers into a hardened fist.
The common current list in circulation for NBA head coaching jobs right now is essentially identical to the last season’s: Michael Curry, Lindsay Hunter, Brian Shaw, and Michael Malone. Chris Grant and Dan Gilbert can rehash this list, consider their options limited to it and the availability of former coach Mike Brown, but they should face the obvious answer.
Connection to the Cleveland community: Mark Price cares about the Cavaliers. He already has a legacy with the franchise and was a part of some of its greatest moments. He still holds many of the team’s records. He’s beloved in the town and respected as one of the classiest and best human beings in the history of Cleveland athletics.
His character is unimpeachable. If there’s an individual who merits a statue outside the Quicken Loans Arena, a man who personifies moral character and true loyalty, it’s Mark Price. There are other men of high character who could fill this role, but not one who could bring more integrity and greater support of the City of Cleveland to the sidelines of the Cavaliers bench than Mark Price.
Experience with successful coaches: Mark Price famously played on the Cavaliers for legend Lenny Wilkens and one time defensive guru Mike Fratello. While a Golden State Warrior, Price played under the Rick Adelman. Finishing his career on the Orlando Magic, Price played for Chuck Daly. While a member of the gold medal winning Dream Team II, Price played under Don Nelson.
That’s a hall of fame resume of coaches.
Post playing career coaching experience: Price has been coaching since the end of his career as a player. He has successfully coached at every level, including coaching this summer’s top Free Agent Forward Josh Smith as a high school freshman at Whitefield Academy outside Atlanta. Price coached as an assistant at Georgia Tech.
He’s coached professional players since 2004, serving as a consultant for the Denver Nuggets, an assistant coach for the Memphis Grizzlies under Mike Fratello, a shooting coach on the Atlanta Hawks under Mike Woodson, an assistant coach to Keith Smart for the Golden State Warriors, and a player developmental coach under Stan Van Gundy in Orlando for the Orlando Magic. When Van Gundy was fired by the Orlando Magic after the Dwightmare season of 2011-12, Price was the only member of the staff that the team kept, and served the team as its head coach in the 2012 NBA Summer League.
Price also has experience with international players, having briefly coached in Australia for the Melborne South Dragons and remains the most recognizable name in the history of Australia’s basketball leagues.
His basketball school, the Mark Price Basketball Academy and Shooting Lab, is a renown skills school, famously mentoring the improved shooting of Boston Celtic Rajon Rondo during the 2010 offseason.
Mark Jackson, who had no real coaching experience at all, was hired by the Golden State Warriors last season and will roll into the playoffs behind a 47-35 record. Price is more experienced, as respected and as ready as Jackson was when he assumed head coaching duties at the start of this season.
There’s no question that Mark Price is ready to take over head coaching duties for an NBA team. He represents a low risk investment for the Cavaliers, a developing team which is in dire need of a coaching expert in player development. The progress of Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller is essential to the success of the team. The reality is that the 2013-14 season is going to be another growing season, likely not a playoff-bound one. One which will need an effective coach in a position to be respected and taken seriously by fans of the team that have struggled to watch the last three seasons.
None of the rehashed names of the summer of 2012 can do that. A college coach coming into the league for the first time cannot do that. Mike Brown cannot do that.
For a team in year three of an ongoing flux, attempting to build a young core of players to supplement through the use of a massive glut of cap space, Price is the proven face of the franchise, someone players and the city will respect. A Cavalier legend that current players have and will want to play for, succeed for, learn and grow with.
Somewhere in an office in Independence, Chris Grant is measuring and evaluating. The current players, the current situation, the possibilities into the future and the oncoming effect of the Collective Bargaining Agreement’s harsh luxury taxes on salary structure for teams with high payrolls come 2014. And he must be thinking, how to get there, to 2014 with the largest amount of cap space possible, with maximum development of the current core and using the least amount of necessary resources.
Because the time to pull every trigger is just one season away. And Mark Price can get him there. Pick up that phone, Chris Grant, get Price on the sideline.