In a shocking turn of events, the Cleveland Cavaliers have fired head coach David Blatt. This is shocking in terms of when it happened the Cavs are the top team in the Eastern Conference with a 30-11 record. It’s one thing to see a head coach fired mid-season for not getting the job done, but to have the best record in the conference is not something you often see.
Tyronn Lue, who served as an associate coach, was promoted to interim head coach. Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski, who first reported the firing, also reported that Cleveland and Lue have agreed to a three-year deal to become the team’s new head coach. This is a move that was strongly supported by LeBron James and his agent, Rich Paul. However, sources told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that LeBron was not involved in the talking of this move and that he found out on Friday.
While the timing of this is shocking, it seemed like only a matter of time before the Cavs and Blatt would part ways. In his first season as the head coach of the Cavs, Blatt led the team to an NBA Finals appearance, only to lose to the Golden State Warriors, who just so happened to blow the Cavs out of their home building on Monday night. It was reported that Blatt was losing the locker room over the past month and some veteran players – not including James – weren’t sure if Blatt knew the league well enough to coach this team to a championship. Blatt was a great head coach when he coached in Israeli League, where he enjoyed a ton of success before transitioning to the NBA level. While those teams he coached may have been talented in their own right, it wasn’t the same as coaching an NBA team. Blatt found out that the differences in coaching styles and philosophies were very different.
So now Lue, who is a former NBA player, will take the reins and try and lead this team to the promise land and deliver a title. The fact that James was a big advocate for this says a lot about Lue. While he isn’t the first and likely not the last, this former player turned head coach has his work cut out for him. Some may think that because a player wasn’t a superstar in their playing days, they won’t translate to a good coach. For example, Luke Walton, who has served as the interim head coach of the Warriors this season while head coach Steve Kerr recovered from back surgery, was not the greatest of players, but Golden State is the top team in the entire league. Sure, he has the likes of Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, but he still has to coach the players. He has to figure out who is playing what amount of minutes, which players play the best with various personnel and map out a game plan. Kerr might even be involved in that in terms of the prep work before a game, but Walton is the one who ultimately has had to make the decisions thus far this season. It might seem easy to coach when you have a player of Curry’s caliber, but it’s more than meets the eye.
As for Lue, he inherits a team that is filled with talent, with the most important piece being James. He also has Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love among others. There were reports that Lue was calling plays during timeout and that Cavaliers’ players were listening to him more than Blatt. It’s not like he is inheriting the Philadelphia 76ers Roster. This team went to the NBA Finals a year ago and are in prime position to do so again, despite changing coaches. Something that Lue and Walton have in common is they both played under legendary head coach Phil Jackson, who surely taught them a lot about the game of basketball.
Nobody really expected this firing to occur at this point in the season, but it has and now both parties will move on in different directions. Blatt will look for new work, whether that be in the NBA or back overseas while Lue will take over and try and get this team to where it wants to go.