In Europe, the coach of the basketball team has all the power (much like college coaches here in the United States).
In the NBA, the power rests with star players.
In Cleveland, all of it rests with LeBron James — and he used that power to disrespect head coach David Blatt. Oh, verbally LeBron often supported his coach. But actions speak louder than words, and there were obvious and public instances of LeBron disrespecting his coach over the course of the season and through the playoffs.
LeBron essentially calling timeouts and making substitutions. LeBron openly barking at Blatt after decisions he didn’t like. LeBron huddling frequently with Lue and so often looking at anyone other than Blatt.
There was LeBron, in one instance I witnessed from right behind the bench, shaking his head vociferously in protest after one play Blatt drew up in the third quarter of Game 5, amounting to the loudest nonverbal scolding you could imagine. Which forced Blatt, in front of his whole team, to wipe the board clean and draw up something else.
That stirred up new “would Blatt be back?” talk. Chris Haynes asked Blatt that question.
I expect he will be. LeBron could have him fired if he wanted, and Tyronn Lue is his guy, but it is not LeBron’s style to get that kind of blood on his hands. And if Blatt is fired, it is all about LeBron.
LeBron may have decided he can live with Blatt at the helm. There is support for Blatt in the organization.
Blatt is a highly respected offensive mind and was hired to help build up a young team and get them to play selfless ball (ala Golden State). Then LeBron James announced his return to Cleveland. That changed the dynamic (from rebuilding to contender) and the power structure in one move. Blatt struggled to adapt to that, still trying to put in an offense that LeBron, Kyrie Irving and other players didn’t like.
And Blatt made his share of mistakes (he doesn’t like to be called a rookie coach, but he had a lot to learn about how the NBA game worked). There was the famed almost timeout call, or having LeBron as the in-bounder on a late-game out of bounds play (something LeBron overruled).
But if LeBron disrespects his coach and his teammates see it, that door swings wide open. And it’s hard to get players to buy in if the star isn’t on board.
Expect Blatt to be back on the Cavaliers sideline next season. But just don’t equate that with respect from LeBron.