LeBron's ex-coaches see Cavs return possible
AKRON, Ohio - The thought that LeBron James will return to Cleveland and the Cavaliers in 2014 remains, for many reasons, just a thought.
Two people who know the three-time NBA MVP very well are among those who believe it's possible.
The man who brought James to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, Keith Dambrot, is now the head coach at the University of Akron. When Dambrot left after James' sophomore year to return to the college ranks, Dru Joyce took over as St. V-M's head coach. Both were asked Wednesday about various reports that James could opt out of his Miami Heat contract and return to Cleveland, making good with the franchise -- and the city -- he left in the summer of 2010.
Neither wanted to say too much. Neither thought the idea seemed far-fetched.
"With LeBron," Dambrot said, "anything is always possible."
Said Joyce: "Nothing could surprise me at this point, and it wouldn't surprise me if he came back here, either. This is home. I think he has an affinity for this place. He's been around the world, he's seen the world, he can live anywhere. He loves Akron."
The James-Cavaliers breakup was anything but pretty, and hard feelings on both sides were public. But reports from FOX Sports Ohio and elsewhere have indicated that both sides have either made up or are willing to, and if James is ready to move on from Miami after next season, he'll consider a return to the franchise that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2003.
The consensus from his former coaches is that James is a much more mature person than he was in 2010, one who sees and understands things a little differently than he did when he announced via national television that he was leaving in July 2010.
"When he really absorbed the negativity from 'The Decision' and became kind of the enemy in that (2010-11) season, that's really the first time he ever dealt with criticism," Joyce said. "One thing that he saw in that first year in Miami, when things weren't going well, he was trying to make things out of anger and the hate he was feeling from other people. He wanted that negativity and anger to fuel him, and it wasn't working.
"He found you can't do that, it doesn't work. The positives come from love -- that's how you make things last, how you make things great. He'd been loved for so long, then was in this new place, was driven by all this negativity, and it was different. He became a little jaded, and I've always said that if I had the things thrown at me so young that he did, I'd probably be a mess.
"When I heard him say last year around this time that he'd found that positive energy, that he had that love back, I knew what was coming next."
That would be the NBA title the James-led Heat won last June.
More titles -- emphasis on plural -- is ultimately what both Joyce and Dambrot say will drive James' future career decisions, too.
"I really don't know if he thinks about Cleveland, or if this is way premature," Dambrot said. "I haven't talked to him much lately. I usually only call when things aren't going well, and he's playing very well right now. I think LeBron is a unique individual. He's going to do the right thing. Whatever he eventually decides to do will be the best business decision, the right thing for him and his family.
"We'll see what happens. If he wins a couple more titles in Miami, that changes the dynamic. If he doesn't win, that changes the dynamic. I think whatever is in his mind at the time will drive the decision. I know his thought process will be driven by winning"
The Cavaliers are struggling, but are attempting to build and develop a young core around their current centerpiece, second-year point guard Kyrie Irving. They're on track for another high lottery pick this year -- and to have the cap space they'd need to sign James, should he become available and be interested 18 months from now.
James still supports both of his former coaches and their programs, both publicly and privately, and lives in Akron during the late summer months.
"He may choose not to come back. I don't know," Joyce said. "But he cares about winning, and he's always understood that winning as a team is what drives the individual stuff taking care of itself. He's aware of the individual stuff, but he's always been about winning.
"We've always talked about love is the equalizer. He loved a lot of his time (with the Cavaliers). He loves the city of Akron and his family here, and obviously being so close to Cleveland that could be something he considers. If and when that opportunity comes up, I certainly think he'd consider it."