When I woke up at noon on Friday, I expected it to be a normal day. Then I opened my computer to find out that David Blatt, the coach who led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 97-46 record up until then, had been fired by the team and replaced by assistant coach Tyronn Lue. From a strictly results standpoint, this firing makes no logical sense, as the Cavs had the third best regular season winning percentage under Blatt during his tenure. But In reality, this move had been in the works for months. And least surprising at all, the effort to get rid of Blatt was spearheaded by none other than the Chosen One himself, LeBron James.
Over the course of Blatt’s time with the team, the growing disconnect between LeBron and Blatt had become painfully obvious. There were times during timeouts where LeBron could be seen ignoring his coach. There were even times when he would tell his team to ignore Blatt’s coaching decisions and draw up his own plays. Since Blatt took over LeBron has demonstrated a clear lack of respect for the coach. This was made worse by the fact he is the leader of the Cavaliers, and other players will (reluctantly) follow his lead. LeBron’s silent crusade against Blatt has also affected the team dynamic, with players on the team caught in the middle of the situation having to choose sides. From an ownership standpoint, the Cavs owner Dan Gilbert knows LeBron is the biggest draw for his team financially, and it could be a potentially disastrous situation if he remained unhappy. Although there were no real grounds to do so, a game against the Warriors a couple days prior gave Gilbert the perfect to incentive to fire Blatt. The Cavs were blown out by 34 points, and at times during the game they looked to have given up. Gilbert cited ‘bad chemistry and a serious disconnect in the locker room” when he was asked the reason for the termination.
The one guy you really have feel for in this situation is the Cavs newly promoted coach, Tyronn Lue. With all the turmoil between the team (LeBron) and the coach, he stayed loyal to Blatt throughout. He encouraged the players (who all seemed to treat him more like the head coach during Blatt’s tenure) to listen to Blatt and trust his decisions. But time and time again, LeBron went out of his way to sabotage any chance Blatt had of remaining with the team. LeBron knows the power he holds over the whole Cavaliers organization, and he is shamelessly using it to get his way, no matter how detrimental it is to the team. The worst part about this whole situation is the media treatment of it. Entities like ESPN, who cater to LeBron’s every need and do anything they can to make him look good, are accepting and widely reporting that LeBron had nothing to do with the firing. This complacent attitude is almost just as bad as what LeBron is doing to his own team.
This leads me to my main point. If LeBron is that much of a control freak that he would go out of his way to get his coach fired because he didn’t like him, he should go the extra mile and become a player/coach. Although it has never been done in the NBA, player-managers used to be prevalent in baseball, with the most recent examples being Joe Torre and Pete Rose. LeBron should just save Tyronn Lue the trouble of dealing with his pre-madonna self and take the team over. If LeBron is not going to let his coach actually coach, then he should to be prepared to take on full responsibility (both good and bad) of the team. Then maybe he will learn how hard it is to actually coach, and in the process can learn to respect his teammates more.