CLEVELAND (AP) — Mike Brown took the high road out of town.
Fired by Cleveland after winning 127 regular-season games the past two seasons but not an NBA title, Brown called his five years with the Cavaliers an "exceptional experience."
Brown, who had not publicly commented since his dismissal, issued a statement through the Cavs on Wednesday in which he thanked his team, general manager Danny Ferry and owner Dan Gilbert for the opportunity to coach in Cleveland. The 40-year-old Brown was fired in the aftermath of a second-round playoff collapse to Boston.
"The past 5 years have been an exceptional experience," Brown said. "I have been very fortunate to lead a group of men who I respect and thoroughly enjoyed coaching on a daily basis. At the same time, I was able to work alongside a terrific coaching staff and with Danny Ferry and a basketball operations team, all of whom I have a profound respect for.
"We partnered in creating a culture and a standard that I am, and will continue to be, very proud of. None of which would be possible without the dedication and support of Dan Gilbert. I am thankful for the opportunity that he gave to me and my family. We have a deep appreciation for Northeast Ohio, the Cleveland Cavaliers organization, and the people in this community, and have enjoyed making this our home."
Brown was selected NBA coach of the year in 2009. He took Cleveland to its only NBA finals appearance in 2007 and to the postseason every year. However, despite having the league's best record for the second straight season and two-time MVP LeBron James, the Cavs flamed out against the Celtics. Boston overcame a 2-1 deficit and won the final three games to take the best-of-seven series.
Cleveland lost its last two home games by a combined 50 points, including a 32-point drubbing in Game 5. It may have been the final home game for James, who is eligible for free agency in July and is expected to consider offers from other teams.
James was openly critical of Brown's strategies during the playoffs and did not offer his support for Brown after the coach was fired.
Brown, who previously worked as an assistant in Washington, San Antonio and Indiana, could end up with one of the five other teams with head coaching vacancies.