Cavaliers president backs coach J.B. Bickerstaff despite first-round NBA playoff exit

The Knicks beat the Cavaliers 4-1 in their opening-round playoff series earlier this week

J.B. Bickerstaff isn’t going anywhere.

Cleveland Cavaliers president Koby Altman backed Bickerstaff on Friday, just days after they were knocked out of the first round of the playoffs by the New York Knicks. Bickerstaff’s job, Altman said, is totally safe.

“End that speculation,” Altman told The Associated Press. “He’s our head coach and we have a lot of support and respect for the job he’s done.”

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff
J.B. Bickerstaff's job is safe despite the Cavaliers' postseason exit earlier this week. (AP/Ron Schwane)

Bickerstaff just wrapped up his third full season leading the Cavaliers. They went 51-31 in the regular season, and reached the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James helped lead the franchise to four straight NBA Finals appearances from 2015-18. He holds a 122-125 overall record in Cleveland, where he officially took over after being promoted to replace John Beilein in 2020.

Despite that, however, the Knicks won three straight games and knocked the Cavaliers out 4-1 in their opening-round playoff series. That series win sent the Knicks into the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time in a decade.

While that’s disappointing, especially considering the Cavaliers had the best defense in the league, Altman isn’t basing his decision off of this season alone. He’s looking at the bigger picture, and Bickerstaff has only improved since he took over.

“J.B. has been through this rebuild from the ground up and he’s done a phenomenal job instilling a culture here of accountability and hard work,” Altman said, via The Associated Press. “You can’t fluke your way into 51 wins and you can’t fluke your way into the No. 1 defensive rating in the NBA. That’s coaching.

“I know we have great defensive personnel, but you have to have buy-in from that and that comes from the head coach. We’re extremely happy with J.B. and the job he’s done. I think he’s going to look back and reflect on what we could have done better, just like the players look back at what they could have done better.”