When the Cavaliers hired David Blatt to coach the team last summer, it was a very different job than the one he ultimately got.
Blatt was hired long before LeBron James made the decision to return to the franchise, so Blatt believed he’d be charged with rebuilding around Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and the first overall pick in last year’s draft, Andrew Wiggins.
Things changed immediately once James came to town, obviously, and the Cavs started adding pieces around him that would put them in a position to contend for a title, and do so immediately.
Because of the franchise’s sudden change of course, Blatt encountered a far more difficult transition to the NBA than he had initially envisioned.
Blatt — a wildly successful coach in Europe before getting his long-awaited chance to lead an NBA team for the first time last season — was a panelist on Monday at a scouting school in Las Vegas, part of a group that was discussing some of the ways coaches prepare for games at various levels. And he detailed several differences between the European game and the NBA one.
“When I came to the NBA I was under the impression that this was going to be a breeze,” Blatt said. “I’ve been coaching for 23 years at the highest level in Europe. I coached in the national-team environment, coached professional teams, coached Euroleague teams and I thought I thought I knew basketball and I thought I knew how to coach. Which, in my mind, I did.
“But I realized that when I came over here it was a very, very different game with a whole new set of problems and a whole slew of things to deal with inside and outside of the game.”
That “outside of the game” part is what was likely the biggest issue.
Blatt was forced to try to manage the ego of the game’s greatest player, and by most accounts, he failed miserably. LeBron threw him under the bus and diminished his coach’s importance more than once, which forced Blatt to do what he could, while acquiescing to his star player consistently.
The Cavaliers did get to the Finals, though, and Blatt will be back on the sidelines next season — which means he was more than smart enough to eventually figure things out.