LeBron says Cleveland’s head coaching hire had no effect on his decision to return to Cavaliers


The Cavaliers reached an agreement to hire David Blatt as the team’s new head coach on June 20, well in advance of the NBA’s free agency period opening on July 1.

It was reported at the time that by Cleveland hiring someone unproven in the NBA (though very successful overseas), their chances of landing LeBron James in free agency were diminished significantly.

As it turned out: Nope.

From Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com:

“Him being here, it wasn’t part of my process of coming back,” James said after practice Saturday night. “Obviously, I was excited once I made the decision to get to know him, get to know what he’s about and it’s been good so far.” …

James said he first became aware of Blatt’s accomplishments when Blatt coached the Russian national team to a gold medal over Spain in the FIBA EuroBasket 2007, but added that he feels like he can work with any coach regardless of how impressive or pedestrian their past might be.

“I’m coachable,” James said. “I’m very coachable, so it never really mattered to me. I don’t go into it saying I know it all. Every coach and every guy has his own system, has what he believes in. So, I’m a very coachable guy. I believe I can help as well. I have a high basketball IQ, as well, I think. But as far as picking a team or going somewhere because of a coach, it’s never been my thing.”

The more you hear LeBron speak about his reasons for returning to Cleveland, the more ridiculous that initial report becomes.

James had always planned to come back to play for his home town Cavaliers; the only question was when. Once Miami got crushed in the Finals and was unable to improve much in the early days of free agency, his timetable for doing so was rapidly sped up.

Coaches come and go in the NBA, and players simply cannot get too attached. Most of the Warriors, for example, weren’t at all happy to see Mark Jackson go at the conclusion of last season, but will embrace the new direction that Steve Kerr brings — mainly because they don’t have much of a choice.

Taking a look at the totality of an organization — from ownership’s willingness to spend, to the experience of the general manager, to the respectability of the head coach — makes complete sense for most players when choosing a destination as a free agent. For James, however, it wasn’t about any of that; it was simply about coming home.