Cavaliers fire J.B. Bickerstaff after 4 full seasons (2024)

Cavaliers fire J.B. Bickerstaff after 4 full seasons (1)

By Joe Vardon, Shams Charania, Jason Lloyd

May 23, 2024

The Cleveland Cavaliers dismissed J.B. Bickerstaff as their coach after 4 1/2 seasons, three postseason appearances and 170 regular-season wins with him at the helm.

Bickerstaff, 45, guided the Cavs to their first playoff series victory since 2018 and their first without LeBron James on the roster since 1993. He has two years and roughly $10 million remaining on his contract.

“J.B. is a well-respected NBA coach and an incredible human-being,” team president Koby Altman said in a news release announcing Bickerstaff’s ouster. “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.”

The Cleveland Cavaliers have dismissed J.B. Bickerstaff as head coach, it was announced today by Cavaliers President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman from Cleveland Clinic Courts.


— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) May 23, 2024

Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson and New Orleans assistant James Borrego — both with head-coaching experience — are considered leading candidates to replace Bickerstaff, according to league sources.

The firing came eight days after the Cavs were bounced from the second round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics. It was after the series-clinching Game 5 loss when The Athletic reported Bickerstaff’s position in Cleveland was in “serious jeopardy.”

Though Cleveland improved under Bickerstaff, his teams scuffled after the All-Star break in each of the last three seasons. Also, and perhaps most importantly, Cavs star Donovan Mitchell, among other players, did not have great confidence in Bickerstaff as the coach for the future, numerous league sources have said for most of the season.


Fairly or not, those players questioned Bickerstaff’s strategies, game management, practice habits and accountability measures, privately and publicly, throughout the season. Bickerstaff had to manage a roster that was constantly plagued by injured players missing games, as well as the pressure throughout the organization to convince Mitchell to accept a four-year, $208 million extension.

Cleveland was on its way to the worst record in the NBA over a three-year stretch when Bickerstaff replaced John Beilein just 11 games before the league shut down in March 2020 due to COVID-19. The Cavs returned to the postseason as a Play-In Tournament team in 2022, but lost both games and failed to make the playoffs.

Last season, Cleveland was a No. 4-seeded team, but it was bounced in five games in the first round by the New York Knicks. This season, the Cavs beat the Orlando Magic in seven games as the fourth seed before losing to the Celtics in five games of the conference semifinals.

Bickerstaff, 45, coached his last game without Mitchell, Jarrett Allen or Caris LeVert in uniform — three key players who were nursing nagging injuries. He finished with a record of 170-159 as Cleveland’s coach.

League sources said Bickerstaff was nearly fired around Thanksgiving after the team’s poor start. He also was admonished by team president Koby Altman in front of his entire coaching staff for playing Mitchell too many minutes in a December win over the Houston Rockets in overtime while both Darius Garland and Evan Mobley were out.

Cleveland was 13-12 when it was announced both Garland and Mobley would be out for up to two months due to injuries. Their absence might have permanently sunk Bickerstaff. Instead, he did some of his best work while the Cavs won an NBA-best 22 games from mid-December until the All-Star break, igniting the team’s campaign to get Bickerstaff elected as NBA Coach of the Year (he finished with one third-place vote).


But just as it did in Bickerstaff’s first two full seasons, Cleveland slid backward down the stretch. They went 12-17 after the break, which included some ghastly defeats. His players expected he would be fired at season’s end unless the team somehow made it past Boston in the second round.

Mitchell’s two best seasons as a pro, at least statistically, have occurred with the Cavs. The 27-year-old made his fifth consecutive All-Star team this season, averaging 26.6 points and career highs of 6.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game. He played for most of the second half of the campaign on a nagging bone bruise in his left knee.

The injury required multiple absences and a platelet-rich plasma injection in early March. At times, Mitchell looked hobbled on the court. He ended the playoffs in street clothes due to a left calf strain, missing the final two games against the Celtics — the last of Bickerstaff’s tenure in Cleveland.

Required reading

  • Cavs oust J.B. Bickerstaff, a good man who had players’ backs even if they didn’t have his
  • What’s next for Donovan Mitchell, J.B. Bickerstaff, Darius Garland and the Cavs?
  • LeBron James, Donovan Mitchell and the Cavaliers’ past, present and future

(Photo: Jason Miller / Getty Images)

Cavaliers fire J.B. Bickerstaff after 4 full seasons (2024)


Did the cavaliers fire their coach? ›

Bickerstaff was fired as Cleveland's coach Thursday despite the Cavs improving in each of his four seasons and overcoming numerous injuries this year to make it to the second round of the playoffs.

Who was the last Cavs coach? ›

There have been 23 head coaches for the Cavaliers franchise. The most recent head coach was J. B. Bickerstaff, who was fired after the 2023–24 season. The franchise's first head coach was Bill Fitch, who coached for nine seasons.

Who is the Cavs coach now? ›

Bickerstaff originally joined the Cavs as the associate head coach head of the 2019-20 season, taking over as head coach after John Beilein and the team parted ways. After helping turn the culture around and instill new energy in the young team, the Cavs signed Bickerstaff to a multi-year extension in 2021.

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