INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin knew the narrative existed, knew the question was lingering and appropriately saved his most powerful response for the topic of Kyrie Irving.
The Cavaliers' superstar will be playing for his third coach in four seasons next year, but Griffin was adamant that Irving had no role in Mike Brown's removal as coach.
"Any . . . any . . . insinuation that Kyrie had anything to do with this decision is patently false," Griffin said, at one point pounding the table for effect. "It's unfair. He was not counseled on this decision, nor was he counseled on the previous coaching decision (Byron Scott). It's a completely unfair assertion and one that I want everyone to understand very clearly. That is not a narrative that we are going to go with."
With a potential contract extension looming this summer, Griffin has spent the past three months building a foundation with Irving and his representatives.
A palpable tension existed between Irving's agent, Jeff Wechsler, and former Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant.
It's also an open secret in certain circles that people close to Irving weren't happy with Brown's coaching style and often made their opinions known.
Brown and Irving had their moments, both good and bad. Brown worked hard from the time he was hired to build a relationship with Irving and often received mixed results.
Irving ignored him during an early season game in Chicago, walking past Brown and heading to his seat on the bench after he was pulled from the game.
Brown followed him and delivered a tongue lashing, reminding him that communication works both ways, and if Irving expected Brown to listen to his suggestions, then Irving needed to reciprocate.
Yet at other times, Irving seemed to genuinely embrace what Brown was trying to teach him. In the days before Grant was fired, Irving told the Akron Beacon Journal this was the most challenging season of his career.
"I needed this. It was more or less a wake-up call," Irving said, without mentioning Brown by name. "I got away with so much my first two years. It wasn't a breeze, but everything came easy. This is the first year where every single night it's going to be a challenge."
Irving aside, the Cavs have another perception problem since they'll have their third coach in three seasons next year. The instability within the upper ranks of the Cavs is visible across the league.
Griffin is the Cavs' fourth GM since Dan Gilbert purchased the team nine years ago. He has also fired four coaches (Brown twice) during that same period.
"This is not sometimes a function of a lack of stability. It's a function of a lack of fit," Griffin said. "Fit extends to every decision we make. It extends to what we're going to do to augment our front office; it extends to what we're going to do to augment our roster. From a stability standpoint, we have the complete confidence of ownership to deliver those things. That's all you can ask for as a franchise is that stability."
Griffin said the Cavs will take their time in looking for a replacement and coaches at every level, including college, will be considered. That includes Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg and UConn's Kevin Ollie, who briefly played for the Cavs. But one source with knowledge of Hoiberg's intentions said he isn't interested in leaving the Cyclones, making him a long shot to come to Cleveland.
Other names under consideration are Alvin Gentry, Vinny Del Negro, Steve Kerr and Mark Jackson. Since the coaching search is still in its infancy, other names certainly could be added.
Del Negro and Griffin are close personally from their time together in Phoenix, which could impact the decision to hire him -- Grant and Brown were close friends since college and the pair lasted less than a year together in Cleveland.
Mike D'Antoni, despite working with Griffin for years in Phoenix, is not considered a viable candidate.
Griffin spent 17 years in the Suns' offensive-based system and the past four years working for a defensive-minded owner in Gilbert. He's hoping to find more of a balance between the two with the new coach while tweaking a roster that has missed the playoffs four consecutive years.
"I believe we have the right assets to find the right mix," Griffin said. "We have everything we're going to need to make a run at the pieces we do need.
"There certainly are some pieces that don't fit on this roster and there are some things we need to add to our roster. So this is not a complete product. This won't be a complete product until we're winning all the time. It never is."
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