Dan Gilbert can no longer ignore the glaring problem with the Cleveland Cavaliers. This issue has continually destroyed any possibility of stability the team might have been able to sustain through continued acts of petulance. It should not be possible to spend all of the good will afforded from ending a city’s 52 year professional sports championship drought over 13 months, but this irritation on the collective mindsets of the North coast brethren has been able to run that goodwill drier than the hillside grass in a Texas July. Yep, Dan Gilbert peers at the obstacle of the Cavs being a model franchise every day in the mirror.
Many might say Gilbert needs to grow up, become less abrasive, or maybe even excuse him as still figuring out how to best run a NBA team. Not here. In a world where Mark Cuban is considered a mature adult by many, Donald Trump runs the country, Lavar Ball is able to start a sneaker company by acting insane, and the Kardashians are legitimate news in fashion, sports, and on social issues, Gilbert needs to lean into his persona rather than away from it. The people want egomaniac meets obsessed fan owning a team. To do so, Gilbert needs to go full Jerry Jones.
Jerry Jones began his ownership of the Dallas Cowboys by running off a legend (coach Tom Landry), seeing the team crater (1-15 in 1989), redeeming himself by winning a championship (under direction of Jimmy Johnson), then allowing his ego to ruin the success and firing leaders at the height of that run (exit Jimmy Johnson, enter Barry Switzer). Jones even hired someone capable again (Bill Parcells) because he knew he needed to get a stadium built- promptly firing him once it was assured.
The team was left to be middling for years until he finally hired someone to lead the front office whom he trusted. Someone able to get Jerry Jones himself to back away from his pretenses about drafting flashy players who were from the universities with strong alumni bases in the Dallas-Fort Worth area (LSU, Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and of course, Arkansas being the main focus). Stephen Jones is the current Executive Vice President, CEO, and Director of Player Personnel for the Cowboys alongside being the son of Jerry Jones. You don’t think Jerry would have been the one to build up the offensive and defensive lines picking players from Wisconsin (Travis Frederick), Notre Dame (Zach Martin) and Boise State University (DeMarcus Lawrence).
Jerry Jones hasn’t changed. He’s still talking about finding glory holes, circumcising mosquitoes, and calling quarterback Dak Prescott “Daddy.” The Cowboys are just being run by the professionals while he garners headlines.
Dan Gilbert began his ownership by running off a legend (LeBron James), seeing the team crater (2010-2014 records NSFW), redeeming himself by winning a championship (upon LeBron James return), then allowing his ego to ruin the success and firing leaders at the height of that run (good-bye David Griffin). Gilbert even had hired the capable Griffin who was able to help him obtain financing for refurbishing the Q.
Before Dan runs off James again, or perhaps especially if he does, Gilbert needs to make a move to provide stability and sanity back into the franchise. He needs to hire someone who he trusts. Someone who knows how to get Gilbert to leave the basketball decisions to the basketball people. Someone who would not be flustered in any situation with the NBA because he has been winning a battle against neurofibromatosis his entire life. Of course, I’m talking about his son, Nick Gilbert.
Nick Gilbert will be 21 years of age by the time the 2017-2018 NBA season begins, so he’s an adult now. He has no executive or NBA experience- outside helping the Cavs win three No. 1 overall picks in the lottery- but he has a relationship with many of the players and agents from being around functions of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He probably has a better relationship with LeBron James Jr. from years of sitting at the kiddie tables of those events than his dad has with LeBron James. Not like that bar is especially tough to clear. Nick is the one who Dan has proclaimed is his hero, which means he is someone that he undoubtedly trusts. He is the obvious successor to Dan Gilbert’s empire, and someone who should know how to get Dan to back off as well as anyone.
The Cavs have people who understand the inner workings of the CBA, the detailed scouting reports of every single player, and the machinations of league politics. What the Cavs have an urgent need for is to firewall Dan Gilbert away from the basketball side so he can focus on building up downtown Detroit, hanging out with the Chicago Cubs, and writing fan poetry in Comic Sans. With Nick and his bow ties, the Cavs can gain that unique skillset. What’s not to like?