The Cleveland Cavaliers just fired the coach who took them to the Finals last season and led them to a 30-11 record so far this season.
Rick Carlisle, the coach of the Dallas Mavericks and president of the coaches association, told ESPN he’s "embarrassed for our league." Charles Barkley told NBA TV that "the Cavaliers set him up for failure." Fans and observers around the league felt LeBron James was behind the decision to fire Blatt.
Now, hours after the controversial decision, comes the story straight out of Cleveland, from the guy who covers the team on a daily basis. And LeBron is right in the middle of it.
According to Chris Haynes of cleveland.com, Blatt tried too hard "to get in the good graces of his top talent." He held back from criticizing members of his Big Three — James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving — and whistled players for ticky-tack fouls on his stars during practice.
Blatt alienated players trying to kiss up to LeBron and never won over his biggest star, who was dissatisfied with many of Blatt’s coaching moves and his European pedigree. In the end, though, it appears it wasn’t Blatt’s failure to win over LeBron as much as it was his failure to win the locker room. That created a disconnect between the players and coach, which GM David Griffin referred to at his news conference, and led to a "lack of spirit" that manifested not only in embarrassing losses to San Antonio and Golden State, but also after wins.
"Sometimes you can win games in this league in the regular season and get worse," Griffin said. "I think we were regressing over a period of time."
Assistant coach Tyronn Lue won over the players, Haynes writes, because he’s not afraid to criticize the stars and hold them accountable. Now Lue takes over the head-coaching job he was considered for before Blatt was hired. "He has the pulse of our team," Griffin said of Lue.
Terry Pluto of cleveland.com writes the reason behind Blatt’s firing is even simpler: Now the Cavs have no excuses. If they fall short again, they can’t blame Blatt.