The weird and surprising firing of David Blatt makes Tyronn Lue the fifth head LeBron James has worked with since entering the NBA almost 13 years ago. Paul Silas, Mike Brown, Erik Spoelstra and Blatt preceded him.
The first head coach LeBron James had in the NBA was Paul Silas, a very good defensive player and three-time NBA champion during his playing days, but nothing too spectacular as a coach. He went 35-47 in James’ rookie season (2003-2004) and was fired in March of 2005 with a 34-30 record, with the Cavaliers losing most of their games under Brendan Malone, missing the playoffs for the second straight season. In his opportunities to speak about James, Silas often recalls that period of James’ first steps in the NBA fondly.
Mike Brown got the job in 2005 and it the matchup seemed to work. James took his game to another level, and Brown, who was fired after James left Cleveland for the Miami Heat in 2010, at the time had the highest winning percentage of any Cavaliers head coach. During his five seasons (came back to Cleveland in 2013 for a failed 33-49 run), Brown won 66.3% of the games, reached the conference finals twice and the NBA finals once (2007), winning NBA Head Coach of the Year in 2009. The Cavaliers never lost a first round playoff series during Brown’s 2005-2010 tenure, that also included finishing with the best record in the NBA twice, and James winning his first two MVP awards.
The only head coach who worked with LeBron James and didn’t get fired, and not for lack of trying on part of James. Spoelstra is still the head coach in Miami, and with the backing of Pat Riley, survived a few difficult moments as a young NBA head coach working on the most followed and watched team in the NBA, which means a lot of pressure; from the outside and from within, especially from James and Dwyane Wade. Spoelstra was part of a four consecutive NBA Finals run during James four-year stint in Miami, that included two NBA championships and two more MVP awards for James. Spoelstra and the Heat won 71.7% of their regular season games in the LeBron era.
Let us stick to facts and not rumors and assumptions, although some of them are probably true. When Blatt was hired by the Cavaliers, it was so he would help build a young team around Kyrie Irving and a #1 draft pick which would be Andrew Wiggins. But everything changed in terms of expectations and difficult once LeBron James joined. After a rough first half to his first season, the Cavaliers connected and finished with a 53-29 record, going to the NBA finals where they lost in six games to the Golden State Warriors. The Cavaliers were 30-11, leading the East comfortably, when Blatt was fired. What happened behind the scenes? Who pushed Blatt out of Cleveland? It all depends on who you want to believe when they talk about a hectic Friday and weird weekend. Blatt has a 83-40 record as the Cavs head coach, 67.5%, better than any other Cavaliers head coach ever.