Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been relieved of his duties Thursday as according to breaking news from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The Cavs had just been eliminated from the playoffs after losing to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Bickerstaff had been the head coach for the Cavs since 2020 where in the past two seasons, led the team to a semifinals appearance and won 99 regular season games. While it may not seem like a big deal, the second round appearance this season was the first time the team reached that point since 2018 when LeBron James was still on the roster.

Per Wojnarowski, “Cavaliers President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman and GM Mike Gansey will start to formulate a list in coming days, but one candidate to monitor: Golden State assistant Kenny Atkinson. He coached Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert to playoffs with Nets.”

Cavs president Koby Altman thanks Bickerstaff for the work he’s done

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff reacts during the first quarter of game seven of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs against the Orlando Magic at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Cavs President Koby Altman also announced the firing of Bickerstaff who accumulated a 170-159 record in the regular season (6-11 postseason), reached the playoffs in back-to-back seasons (2023, 2024) and recorded at least 44 wins in each of the last three campaigns. He would say that Bickerstaff had “helped establish a culture that progressively drive players to be come the best versions of themselves” according to an post.

“J.B. is a well-respected NBA coach and an incredible human-being,” Altman said. “Over the past four years, he helped establish a culture that progressively drove players to become the best versions of themselves. Decisions like these are never easy, particularly when you look back at where this franchise rebuild started under his leadership. The NBA is a unique business that sometimes requires aggressive risk-taking to move a franchise forward and ultimately compete for championships. We owe a ton of gratitude for everything J.B. has contributed to the Cavaliers and his engagement in the Cleveland community. We wish J.B., his wife Nikki and their three children the best in their future endeavors.”

An uncertain future regarding coaching and stars for Cleveland

The Cavs have constructed a good core of players whether it be through the draft or elsewhere like a trade, but the future seems rather uncertain. Star Donovan Mitchell is once again in a ton of trade rumors as people have connected him to such teams as the Miami Heat, but the player himself told Wojnarowski that he is “happy in Cleveland.”

“I reached out to Donovan Mitchell today, and he was emphatic in telling me that he is not disgruntled with anyone or anything in Cleveland,” Wojnarowski said. “In fact, he said to me, ‘I am happy in Cleveland. I’ve been happy since I arrived in Cleveland.’ And he thinks this Cavs team made progress this season. Obviously, winning that best-of-seven, first-round series against the Magic to get to the Conference Semis for the first time since 2018. But as he said, he’s not in this to go to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.”

Other areas of interest for the Cavs to figure out

There have also been reports of Mitchell signing an extension with the Cavs to keep him here long-term as his No. 1 focus is to win and get past the semifinals, which could have led to leadership making the decision to axe Bickerstaff. It’s all speculation at this point, but if Mitchell stays, Cleveland still would not be running it back.

The conversation then keys in on star Darius Garland where a divorce between him and Mitchell seems to be inevitable according to Cavs ClutchPoints beat reporter Evan Dammarell. He would say “sources have confirmed to ClutchPoints that if Mitchell signs an extension with Cleveland this offseason, Garland and his representation would approach the Cavs regarding a possible trade.”

Not too mention the fact that other players like big-man Jarrett Allen has been in other talks of getting traded so there is no doubt that this summer and offseason will be crucial for the Cavs and their chances of going farther in the playoffs. However, Bickerstaff will not be the head coach as his stint with Cleveland ends as he first was with the organization as the team’s associate head coach prior to the 2019-20 season.

Bickerstaff once thought to lead the future of the franchise

While the news of Bickerstaff being let go as the head coach seemed to be brewing for a while, some may be surprised since there was initial thoughts of the 45-year old leading the team into the future. This what amplified when the Cavs signed Bickerstaff to a multi year extension through the 2026-27 season in Dec. of 2021 as Altman said he “instilled a growing confidence that resonates across our entire organization” according to ESPN.

“J.B. Bickerstaff is, with all certainty, the right head coach to lead this franchise into what we believe is a very promising future,” Altman said in a statement regarding Bickerstaff’s extension. “The decision to extend J.B. is not based solely on the early success of this season, but rather a body of work since his arrival to Cleveland. His leadership style, coaching experience and commitment to player development has instilled a growing confidence that resonates across our entire organization. We continue to see innovative and strategic examples of his impact on this roster, coupled by his unique ability to build upon a culture that leads to sustainable success.”

How the times have changed as now the Cavs will be looking for their next head coach, and for them one that can hopefully unlock the abilities of their core players, but also bolster the roster as they have aspirations to make noise if they can keep their main star in Mitchell. In any sense, they had a relatively successful season where they finished fourth in the East with a 48-34 record this past year.