Midway through a very successful season, the Cleveland Cavaliers shocked fans and players when they fired their head coach David Blatt.
Blatt lead the Cavaliers to the best record in the Eastern Conference, a very impressive 30-11, before his termination. Blatt was poised to be the head coach for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game this year, an extraordinary honor given every year to the coach with the best record in their respective conference.
David Blatt led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals last season, where they came up short against the Golden State Warriors despite a valiant effort considering the numerous injuries they suffered. Blatt leaves the Cavaliers with an impressive 83-40 record and the highest winning percentage in the franchise’s history. He is also the first coach to be fired when his team has the best record in the conference.
The Cavaliers didn’t hesitate to name former player and assistant coach Tryonn Lue their new full-time head coach. There had been many rumblings for a while that players and people inside the organization felt Lue was a better option to coach a high profile player such as LeBron James. In fact, Blatt was hired before James returned, and was pegged as a person to help rebuild a struggling Cavaliers team, not a coach ready to lead them to a championship.
Blatt had a very tough job––possibly the toughest job in the NBA: coaching LeBron James. Whenever things went wrong, or the Cavaliers faced adversity, whether it was Blatt’s fault or not, he shouldered much of the blame. When things went right, they were said to have gone right in spite of him.
Doc Rivers, head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, stated in an espn.com article: “Blatt’s a heck of a coach and is doing a heck of a job. He had the most scrutinized job that you could possibly have. I think the reward for coaching LeBron is you get scrutinized.… You have a great record, the best in the East, and you get fired for it. Unfortunately, being in this as long as I’ve been in it, you see it all the time. It’s happened to me. It’s tough.”
Although owner of the Cavaliers Dan Gilbert and General Manager David Griffin have said that this decision was solely theirs and they did not consult James, many people believe James was indirectly the reason for Blatt’s firing.
Lue is given an even harder task. If the Cavaliers don’t reach the finals, he will be heavily scrutinized for not being able to get the job done, and people will wonder if he really was a better option than Blatt. If he can’t help them win a championship, he will be under the same fire Blatt found himself in. The Cavaliers still own the NBA’s best record and will look to hold onto it as they push to bring Cleveland its first NBA title.