When David Blatt was hired to be the new coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers in June 2014, the roster he was inheriting consisted of all-star point guard Kyrie Irving, the soon-to-be No. 1 pick in the NBA draft and a bunch of young guys and journeymen veterans who had just finished up a 33-49 season.
A month later, LeBron James, arguably the best player in the league and one of the most difficult players to coach, decided to take his talents back to Cleveland to suit up for Blatt’s Cavs.
Then, a little over a month after that, Cleveland decided to trade Andrew Wiggins, the player it selected with the first pick in draft and a guy who Blatt had coached all summer, to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for superstar forward Kevin Love.
By the time the Cavs opened up regular-season play on Oct. 30, 2014, against the New York Knicks, Cleveland had transformed its roster from one of the worst in the league to one that was expected to win multiple championships.
All of this pressure was put on the 56-year-old Blatt, who, despite his great success in Europe, had never coached in the NBA, did not have any relationships with current NBA players or coaches, and had not even lived in the United States since the early 1980s when he moved to Israel.
An argument could be made that this man was the worst possible choice Cleveland could have made to coach James, Irving and Love.
But the fact of the matter is that Blatt was not hired to coach the team that ended up taking the floor on opening night last season. When James and Love are added to your team, the entire complexion of it changes.
Fast forward several months to the playoffs and the roster had changed yet again with trade acquisitions Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert.
Blatt ended up leading the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals, where the team came just two wins short of its first title in franchise history.
Many would argue that James and the rest of the gang could have done it with or without Blatt, but, nonetheless, he did coach his team to the finals in his first year.
That first year was filled with constant scrutiny from the media, fans and even players. When the Cavs lost, Blatt was given most of the blame, and when they won, he was given no credit.
Despite all of this, he never complained and continued to encourage and praise his team and superstar James.
Many will point to Blatt’s failure to challenge James as one of the reasons he was fired. But realistically, James has not allowed any coach to challenge him since he was in high school.
These same critics of Blatt say that new Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, who basically stole Blatt’s seat on the bench, will be more successful because of his plans to challenge James and the rest of the Cavs’ star players.
Lue being a former player — something James has supposedly always wanted in a coach — is pointed to as the reason he will be able to be tougher than his predecessor.
The reality is this: Lue was a below-average NBA player, and the players on this Cavs team might respect him more than Blatt but not enough to drastically change the way they play.
Their play and demeanor has been — and will continue — to be determined by their true leader: James.
Blatt’s track record shows that he is a good coach, just not the right one for this team.
The Cavaliers have their coach, and he wears No. 23.