Below are excerpts from David Blatt and the unraveling of his Cleveland tenure by Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin. This is as close to a definitive account of Blatt’s time in Cleveland as you can find. Both Windhorst and McMenamin are extremely clued-in to the Cavs affairs.
One of the main reasons Blatt struggled in Cleveland was because the players didn’t respect him for the resume he had built overseas.
ESPN: At the very heart of the matter, this is why the Cavs fired Blatt on Friday, despite a record of 83-40 and a Finals appearance. Blatt viewed himself as a coach with numerous championships in Europe, an Olympic medal and 20-plus years on the sideline, a career that made him one of the most experienced coaches in the world.
The Cavs players, especially the veterans, saw him as a rookie.
“Not all of you know me that well,” Blatt told the media, “but I’ve probably won over 700 games in my career.”
The situation Blatt had originally signed up for in Cleveland is much closer to the current situation in New York.
“David was hired to coach a developmental team and young players who would’ve wanted to please him,” one team source said. “He ended up coaching a finished product where the players expected him to please them.”
As Knicks fans recover from their team’s failure to institute the triangle offense using a top-down approach from executive leadership, David Blatt, as a coach, had difficulty getting the Cavs superstars to accept his Princeton-based offense.
ESPN: James changed his role in the Cavs’ offense and began playing point guard while moving Irving off the ball. In conjunction with the move, the Cavs, naturally, started moving away from the Princeton sets Blatt had installed during the preseason.
James nonchalantly told the media he didn’t consult Blatt on the changes: “No, I can do it on my own,” James said. “I’m past those days where I have to ask.”
Blatt was forced to become a different coach to try to win back a locker room that quickly aligned themselves with top assistant (and eventual head coach) Tyrone Lue.
ESPN: When Blatt was the coach of the Russian national team, he famously once kicked two of his best players off the bench because they were talking over him in a timeout. Now, spectators watched in awe as players barked at Blatt in timeouts. That was just one of many adjustments he made to try to make this unwieldy job work.