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Cavs hire Brown — Mike, that is

Former Indy assistant brought on to take Cleveland to playoffs

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Indiana Pacers associate head coach Mike Brown has his first head coaching job, confirmed Wednesday by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Indiana Pacers associate head coach Mike Brown has his first head coaching job, confirmed Wednesday by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Michael Conroy, Associated Press

CLEVELAND — 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. Before launching his search, Gilbert said he wanted to have his GM hire his coach. It's unclear why he changed his plans.

Earlier this week, The Associated Press, citing two league sources speaking on the condition of anonymity, was one of several media outlets to report that Brown had been offered the Cleveland job.

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.

"He's real excited," Popovich said in Phoenix before Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. "He's a young guy who has been around the league longer than people realize. He's really a highly intelligent young guy, very energetic, very secure in his beliefs about what wins and loses. Our players loved him. They hated it when he left."

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.

SKILES WITHOUT EXTENSION: Nearly a month after leading the Chicago Bulls to their first playoff appearance in seven years, coach Scott Skiles still doesn't have a contract extension.

The organization reportedly offered to tear up its $2.75 million option for next season and reward Skiles with a multi-year deal. But no agreement is in place.

After a minicamp workout Wednesday, Skiles said he won't negotiate during the season. He has set a deadline for signing an extension but wouldn't reveal the date.

"I'll mentally want to move on, not have that to deal with," Skiles said. "I think a clear answer is best for everyone."

General manager John Paxson was unavailable for comment.

In their second season under Skiles, the Bulls improved from 19-47 to 47-35 before losing to Washington in the first round of the playoffs.

"It does concern me," Skiles said. "It's part of my life. Ultimately, I'm in charge of my basketball career."

When asked whether he would prefer to go into next season with an extension, Skiles said "maybe" after a lengthy pause.

"What if it's $5 a year for four years?" he wondered, after being asked to elaborate.

Houston recently gave coach Jeff Van Gundy an extension with two years left on his contract, and other coaches have long-term deals.

The Bulls have until June 30 to exercise the option on Skiles, but by doing so, they would create a similar scenario to the one that played out in Seattle this season. Coach Nate McMillan led the SuperSonics to a 52-30 record and the second round of the playoffs, but his contract expires June 30.

McMillan refused to negotiate during the season. Exercising the option would also make Skiles a potential lame duck.

"Nate is Mr. Sonic," Skiles said. "The guy's been there his whole career. That gives Nate automatic credibility in Seattle."

Skiles came to Chicago with a damaged reputation after spending portions of three seasons as the Phoenix Suns coach. He thinks the Bulls' success this season repaired his image.

If an extension isn't signed before next season, Skiles said he won't sulk.

"I totally understand the hierarchy, the way things work," he said. "There's never going to be any animosity from me."