CLEVELAND (AP) – Mike Brown’s first head coaching job will be to make sure LeBron James isn’t watching the NBA playoffs next season.

Brown, a 13-year NBA assistant who won a league title with San Antonio, has been hired as the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. On Wednesday, the team ended weeks of silence to confirm Brown as their choice.

He’ll be introduced Thursday morning in a news conference at Gund Arena by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who finally has his coach and may be close to hiring a new general manager and president.

“Mike Brown was our first choice and only choice to be the new head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers,” Gilbert said in an e-mail to the AP. “Mike has learned from the very best in the business. He is focused on the defensive end of the court and I am highly confident he is exactly what the Cavaliers need to move our team to one of the very best in the NBA.”

The 35-year-old Brown spent the past two years as Rick Carlisle’s top assistant in Indiana, where he was credited with improving the Pacers’ defense and developing Jermaine O’Neal and Stephen Jackson.

Brown’s main challenge in Cleveland will be getting James, the Cavs’ All-Star forward, into the NBA playoffs for the first time. Cleveland was poised for a return to the postseason for the first time since 1998 before their 2004-05 season collapsed amid an ownership change and the firing of coach Paul Silas.

The firing of Silas, which came with the Cavaliers at 34-30, was followed by Jim Paxson’s dismissal as general manager; the silence of James, who recently fired agent Aaron Goodwin; and Gilbert’s secretive search.

Gilbert also reportedly interviewed Phil Jackson, Flip Saunders and Eric Musselman for the coaching vacancy.

He is the league’s second youngest coach behind New Jersey Nets coach Lawrence Frank, who is 34.

“It’s a great choice,” Cavaliers guard Eric Snow said by phone on Wednesday. “He’s a guy who has worked hard and paid his dues. He’s very knowledgeable in the game. It’s great that they’re giving an opportunity to someone who is very deserving.”

Brown is the Cavaliers’ 17th full-time coach and sixth in six years, and there are reports saying he’ll be working under Detroit coach Larry Brown. Gilbert’s representatives have spoken with Larry Brown about becoming the club’s president of basketball operations when the Pistons’ season is over.

While the nomadic 64-year-old coach defiantly maintains that his focus is on his health and the Pistons, who are tied 2-2 with Miami in the Eastern Conference finals, there are signs pointing to him eventually joining the Cavaliers.

Mike Brown is one of them. As an assistant with the Spurs – he won an NBA title with them in 2003 – Brown worked with Gregg Popovich, a close and friend and confidant of Larry Brown’s.

Before joining the Spurs, Mike Brown was also a scout and video coordinator for the Denver Nuggets. He later joined the Washington Wizards as an assistant under Bernie Bickerstaff and was also a scout.

A father of two, Brown played two seasons at the University of San Diego after spending two years at a community college.


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