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The View From Pluto: The Cavs Take an Unconventional Approach to Build a Younger Team

 Cal Bears coach Lindsay Gottlieb is joining the Cleveland Cavaliers as an assistant
Cal sports
Cal Bears coach Lindsay Gottlieb is joining the Cleveland Cavaliers as an assistant

Update: The Cavs selected Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland with the 5th pick in Thursday night's NBA draft. Garland’s freshman season ended with a knee injury last November. The team then selected Belmont swingman Dylan Windler at No. 26. They then made some moves to get USC guard Kevin Porter Jr. The Cavs' young team now includes two new 19-year-olds and a 22-year-old.

The team has assembled a new coaching staff in the offseason that has no pro experience but an eye for young talent. They followed the hiring of Michigan’s John Beilein as head coach by bringing in University of California women’s coach Lindsay Gottlieb as an assistant. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto says it was a very unconventional move. 

Why Gottlieb?

Pluto says hiring Gottlieb wasn't surprising simply because she's a woman. It was surprising because she's not among the elite NCAA women's coaches. 

"This isn't about women can't coach in the NBA. There are women who have been hired by NBA teams because they played in the WNBA and some of them have been in the same cities where the NBA team is located. I think eventually we will have a head women's coach."

In fact, back in May, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he wants half of all new referees joining the league to be women -- and he would like to see teams hire female coaches, too.

Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Spurs was the league's first full-time female assistant. In December, the Indiana Pacers made Kelly Krauskopf the first woman to hold the title of assistant general manager in the NBA.

But Pluto says Gottlieb wasn't on anyone's radar. "She's a young coach in her late 30's and had been at Cal for eight years. Her teams have made seven trips to the NCAA Tournament and one trip to the Final Four. But I had to Google her," Pluto said.

It was Cavs General Manager Koby Altman who wanted to bring her on board. "He had seen her at some coaching clinics and admired her," Pluto said. "She's going to do some scouting and film work. It's not entry-level but not the top assistant because quite frankly she's not ready to be a top assistant. And neither is Beilein. 

Making moves on draft day

Pluto says these bold moves could set up an interesting draft day on Thursday, especially when you look to the draft order.

"When you want to talk about being unpredictable, several days before the draft there was a big trade between the Lakers and New Orleans. The Lakers traded their No. 4 pick to New Orleans where their top executive is David Griffin -- the former GM of the Cavs and Koby Altman's former boss." 

The Pelicans have the fourth pick. The Cavs have the fifth. "That just reeks that somebody is going to make a trade in there somewhere and those two teams concoct something. Especially if the Cavs have a player at No. 4 that they like."

Pluto says it underscores how the Cavs overall are taking an unconventional approach.

"When Beilein was hired as head coach, it only works when you have a younger team that's willing to be coached. You can't have a bunch of grizzled veterans coming in. LeBron James and the cranky crew that was here before, this is not the group that you want coaching them. So they have to bring in younger guys and that seems to be the plan."

"I'm intrigued by the whole thing," Pluto said. "This isn't just about winning now and bringing in the best guys for LeBron and wait until we play Golden State. The whole game has changed."

Copyright 2021 WKSU. To see more, visit WKSU.

Amanda Rabinowitz
Amanda Rabinowitz has been a reporter, host and producer at WKSU since 2007. Her days begin before the sun comes up as the local anchor for NPR’s Morning Edition, which airs on WKSU each weekday from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. In addition to providing local news and weather, she interviews the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto for a weekly commentary about Northeast Ohio’s sports scene.