It’s a fairly common assumption that LeBron James is hand-picking his next head coach. The fact that both the Bulls and Cavaliers hired and will hire a new head coach this off-season seems to support that notion; it seems hard to fathom that either team wouldn’t consider what impact a potential head coach would have on their chances of snagging James in free agency.
However, both teams have been adamant that LeBron James has not been involved in their coaching searches. On Monday, the Chicago Bulls brass denied that James had anything to do with their decision to hire Tom Thibodeau for their vacant head coaching spot.
On Tuesday, it was the Cavalier front office’s turn to deny LeBron’s involvement in their coaching search. According to the twitter account of the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Brian Windhorst, new Cavaliers GM Chris Grant told the media that the Cavaliers “are not consulting LeBron” on their coaching search.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert gave a similar statement, saying that “LeBron has not been involved in firing coach Mike Brown, departure of Danny Ferry. Truth is the truth.” He went on to say that the next Cavs head coach will not have GM-type power, saying that the next Cavs coach will be “part of the personnel” but that decisions will be made by the team led by Chris Grant.
I can believe that neither LeBron or his team have come to either the Bulls or Cavalier front office directly and given them a list of acceptable or recommended coaching candidates. LeBron’s not a GM, and he does seem to know that on some level.
However, the Cavs doth protest a little bit too much here. Even if LeBron isn’t directly involved in the coaching search, it would be foolish to deny that the reason the Cavs are looking for a new coach in the first place is that they want LeBron to stay a Cavalier next season. It’s not every day that a team fires a coach who has never missed the playoffs, lost a first-round series, and had a 66.3% regular-season regular season winning percentage, but that’s exactly what happened to Mike Brown when public sentiment began to turn against him.
In Chicago, Vinny Del Negro may have been a goner anyways, but part of the reason he was fired is almost certainly that the Bulls didn’t want to have to try and convince free agents to play for Vinny Del Negro. Even if LeBron technically has had nothing to do with Cleveland or Chicago’s, coaching searches, his impending free agency has a lot to do with why those teams want new coaches in the first place.