The sibling rivalry inside Pacers-Cavaliers

Steve Gansey, Mike Gansey, Fort Wayne Mad Ants, G League, Cleveland Cavaliers

As the Pacers drew the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs, the Gansey household perked up. It meant Steve and Mike’s teams would square off.

Steve Gansey, 32, just completed his third year as head coach of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Pacers’ G League affiliate. They went 29-21 and finished second of 13 teams in the Eastern Conference.

Mike Gansey, three years older, was named G League Executive of the Year at this time last year while with the Canton Charge. He’s now going on ten months as Cavaliers assistant general manager alongside GM Koby Altman.

“We don’t really talk much during this time just because we want to win obviously, both of us, but it’s fun,” Mike said. “I wish we played each other in the conference finals instead of the first round.”

Steve added: “It’s a rivalry. In the G League, and now in the NBA.”

LISTEN: Podcast with Mad Ants GM Brian Levy, coach Steve Gansey

Growing up in Olmsted Falls, Ohio, about 19 miles south west of Cleveland, the Gansey boys spent countless hours talking ball and playing on the driveway.

“There were always some competitive one-on-one games that really didn’t end,” Mike shared. “You kind of stopped the game and one of us stormed off complaining or yelling at each other. We always had some pretty good battles in the driveway.”

As for the trash talking, it’s not Mike’s thing…

“No, not really,” Steve said. “If there was going to be someone that would trash talk, it would be me. But then Mike would be like, ‘Yeah, okay. Good one.’ And that would be it, so there’s no need for me to push the envelope. Usually my cousins or step brothers will do that.

“Anytime we’re together they’ll be like, ‘Didn’t Steve’s team beat you guys?’ I just sit back, smirk and smile.”

And that happened during the series. At the start of the series, Mike welcomed his third child under three years old. His son, Griffin, was born less than two weeks ago and so the family got together at their parents’ home. Griffin has two older sisters.

“Getting Game 1 and then going to my brother’s house right after, the next day and being quiet,” Steve said. “It’s fun. Love the rivalry between us.”

Steve Gansey, Mike Gansey, Fort Wayne Mad Ants, G League, Cleveland Cavaliers

Steve Gansey joined the Pacers after his G League season ended.

Both Steve and Mike played college basketball. Steve began at Cleveland State (2004-06) and then finished at Division II Ashland. Mike, meanwhile, attended St. Bonaventure (2001-03) and West Virginia (2004-06).

These two have different personalities, ones that fit their current role. They admit, however, that they could have easily ended up working in the CIA (Mike) and as a sports agent (Mike).

“I think I’m a little bit more outgoing and Mike likes to be behind the scenes,” Steve said. “I had aspirations of being a sports agent, actually, early on. And then I worked out a lot of guys, I played, and Mike was always evaluating and writing these long reports. And I was the guy who liked to present things. It’s a two-headed monster. Mike is behind the scenes and the best basketball mind I know.

In 2001, Mike finished in second for the Ohio Mr. Basketball award – behind LeBron James. Strange how things work out.

Steve Gansey, Mike Gansey, Fort Wayne Mad Ants, G League, Cleveland Cavaliers

Mike Gansey was hired as Cavs assistant GM in July, 2017.

“If I wasn’t doing basketball, I’d want to be in the CIA,” Mike revealed. “That was always my thing in college. Basketball was always my first love.

“I always knew Steve wanted get in on the coaching side and me more so in the scouting, organizational side. We’re just very lucky and blessed to be in two great organizations at the highest level.”

The two did spend one season together, 2014-15, in Canton. Mike was the general manager and Steve was the associate head coach. Steve likes where he’s at, but he would welcome another opportunity to work with his elder brother.

“That was a lot of fun,” Steve said. “I’m glad I did experience that. Hopefully, maybe one day we can work together again. It was to a point where I could really tell him how I feel and argue just like brothers, but ultimately we wanted the same goal.”

Even though Mike’s in the NBA, he keeps a close eye on the G League and his brother’s team. He’s another voice and provides another perspective for Steve as coaching can be a lonely world.

“I follow it a lot,” Mike said. “Obviously him and Brian Levy, the GM up there, do a a really good job. Considering that they didn’t have much two-way help, with (Edmond) Sumner and (Alex) Poythress basically up here with the Pacers all year. He’s developed some guys. Walter Lemon Jr. got a couple call-ups and Trey McKinney Jones got a call-up here.

“He just loves coaching. He had good group of guys and they won a lot of games. We’ll see what his future is here, but I sure know Kevin Pritchard, Chad Buchanan, and all of those guys with the Pacers really treat him well and he’s very grateful for that.”

Once Steve’s season with the Mad Ants ended, he immediately joined the Pacers and helps Nate McMillan in any capacity he can. He is at every practice, travels with the team, and works with players individually.

On Sunday afternoon, one brother won’t be happy at Quicken Loans Arena as their season will be over. Mike said he expected this to be a long, challenging series and it has been just that. It’s been physical, competitive, and entertaining to watch. Game 6 on Friday was ESPN’s highest-rated postseason broadcast thus far, up 81 percent over the same time last year.

Regardless of what happens, Steve and Mike will pick up where they left off, talking hoops as usual.

“We talk family, but it always leans towards talking to hoops,” Steve said.

Bring it on.

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