Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

David Blatt firing the latest “Only in Cleveland” moment

david blatt fired

As Cleveland fans we’ve come to realize that we can’t expect championships from the local sports teams.

But that doesn’t mean things are ever boring.

The latest example came on Friday, when the Cleveland Cavaliers firmly took hold of the “most dysfunctional team in town” title by firing head coach David Blatt at the midway point of his second season.

In doing so, the Cavs are just the third team in the past 40 seasons fire their head coach the season after an NBA Finals appearance. They also become the first team in NBA history to fire a head coach with a winning percentage as high as Blatt’s, which is at .732 after Thursday’s win against the Los Angeles Clippers.

“I’m embarrassed for our league that something like this can happen like this.” – Dallas head coach Rick Carlise

Not the kind of history you normally like to see from the local squad, but there it is.

During his time in Cleveland, all Blatt did was:

  • Post the best winning percentage in franchise history (.675)
  • Win 14 of his first 16 playoff games
  • Help bring the Cavs to within two games of the franchise’s first NBA championship
  • Get the team off to a 30-11 start this season, tops in the Eastern Conference

So there is no question that Blatt is a winning coach. The problem, at least according to general manager David Griffin, is that the Cavs are not winning the right way.

“This team is not galvanized after wins. When we’re really galvanized is when we’re told we can’t win and we do,” Griffin said. “This team is supposed to win a lot of basketball games, right? We haven’t dealt well with the pressure of that. But I also think that if you’re around us very long, you know that we respond really well to a measure of chaos. I think to a huge degree, our circumstances always created that.

“Back in my day, you use to have to at least lose games before you got fired.” – Orlando head coach Scott Skiles

“I’m in our locker room a lot. I knew that there’s just a disconnect there right now. There’s a lack of spirit and connectedness that I just couldn’t accept.”

One of the criticisms of Blatt is that he is not capable of coaching a veteran team like the Cavaliers.

So, of course, the Cavs are now turing the team over to Tyronn Lue, who has never been a head coach at any level and has only been an assistant coach for five.

If the players weren’t listening to someone with Blatt’s experience, it’s going to be interesting to see why they will listen to someone with Lue’s limited experience.

Or, perhaps, this is more about Griffin finding someone who won’t stand up to him or the players, like Blatt most likely did.

The Cavs now have a coach who will tell the players what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear, so it remains to be seen if that can help the team improve or not.

“David Blatt did a heck of a job and he won a ton of games. His team got all the way to the Finals—a team that had to change the way they played to get there.” – Boston head coach Brad Stevens

The Cavs made NBA history on Friday, and not in a good way, and now are faced with another historical challenge.

Only three times in NBA history has a team fired its head coach in the middle of the season and gone on to win the title: the 1979-80 and 1981-82 Los Angeles Lakers and the 2005-06 Miami Heat.

If the Cavs don’t add their name to that list this summer, it will be interesting to see who Griffin finds to place the blame.

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