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Indians surge, Cavs still search
Indians mount remarkable comeback in recent weeks, while the Cavs are expanding their search for a new coach
by WKSU's AMANDA RABINOWITZ


Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
 
Lonnie Chisenhall went 5 for 5 and hit three homers while driving in nine runs on Monday. He's agreed to give the bat he used to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Courtesy of Regina Sturgill bit.ly/1klpizs
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Two of Cleveland’s pro sports teams have been searching in recent weeks. The Indians had been looking to turn around a slow and sloppy start that saw them in last place in the AL Central. The Tribe, as of Wednesday, stands at 2 1/2 games behind Detroit in the AL Central just three weeks after trailing by 10 1/2.
Meanwhile, the Cavs are still on the hunt for a new head coach. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto weighs in on both teams.

Pluto on Indians comeback and Cavs coach search

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Terry Pluto on Browns' last week of OTA's

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Terry Pluto gives some of the credit for the Indians’ turn-around to veteran Manager Terry Francona. And some to spectacularly unexpected surprises like Lonnie Chisenhall.

“He almost was cut late in spring training. He did not have a particularly good spring, and remember previously, he’s been up three times – never did anything.”

But sometimes, Pluto says, things take time. “Lonnie Chisenhall was taken No. 1 in the 2008 draft. Usually when you take a player, it’s three to four years [to develop]. But sometimes, it’s five to six. You always say you don’t know when the light’s going to go on. And it just seemed like suddenly he figured it out."

“The only theory I’ve heard is that the Indians in the past expected him to start, expected big things from him because he was a first-round pick.

“This year when he finally made the team, Francona told him, don’t worry about anything. You’re just going to come off the bench, just be a role player. In other words, they took all the expectations off the board, and now he’s playing like the guy that they drafted in 2008 that they had high hopes for in 2012, 2013.”

Francona's leadership
And Pluto says that wasn’t the only time Francona played it smart – even when the team’s hitting, pitching and defense all seemed to collapse at the same time.

“He really falls into one of my favorite things about leadership. If you don’t know whether to go negative or positive, go positive. For example, if you’re making a bunch of errors and then you have your team out on the field at 2 p.m. for a night game for like three straight days to do extra infield practice, you’re not teaching us anything; you’re punishing us."

“I think he knows the fine line between practice and punishment.”

And Francona and the Indians are benefitting from some things beyond their control. Jason Kipnis is healthy again. “And then, even better, the Tigers bullpen collapsed at the same time. … Had the Tigers continued to play well, the Indians would still be pretty far back. But as the Indians are rising up, the Tigers are falling down.”

Cavs still searching 
On the other hand of pro sports in Cleveland, the Cavaliers continue to struggle with finding an NBA counterpart to Francona.

In the beginning, Pluto says, the search for a head coach was pretty traditional and orderly.

“David Griffin, the new general manager, was talking to different people from Alvin Gentry to Vinny Del Negro, the kind of regular guys who are available.”

Then owner Dan Gilbert did what he’s done before. “He’s inserted himself in the process, as they say. Back in 2010, Gilbert went off on his own and tried to hire Tom Izzo, the legendary Michigan State coach. … Izzo turned him down."

“This time, it’s John Calipari, the big-time coach at Kentucky. John Calipari is very close to LeBron James, and in Gilbert’s mind, he’s thinking, ‘Pair him up with LeBron, big show.’”

Instead, Calipari extended his contract with Kentucky. “I think he took the $60 million the Cavs offered him ... to Kentucky, and got a $53 million contract out of them.”

The latest name to pop up in the coaching search is Mark Price, a four-time All-Star in his nine seasons with the Cavs, whose retired jersey hangs in the Q.

“Mark, I think, needs more experience as an assistant coach. He’s coached in Australia, he’s coached high school, he’s been a shooting coach for a couple NBA teams, but he’s never been a top assistant.”

Still, “I would be very open to talking to Mark because Mark may be the kind of guy that I may want to pair with a head coach. Mark Price is a very good teacher of shooting, and you’ve got a good PR factor, too.”

And, Pluto acknowledges, he isn’t quite sure how to read the Cavs.

“Four days ago I would say no chance.”

But after Calipari, “I don’t know what to say.”


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