David Blatt Was A Victim of Good Management

Sometimes in life things happen. Sometimes you do your job to the best of your ability and you get fired. This isn't about me, it's about David Blatt, the now former head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Plus, I wasn't fired. My position was eliminated. Pay attention!

Blatt was fired last Friday, despite the fact that the Cavaliers have the best record in the eastern conference and he led them to the NBA Finals last year. That seems preposterous and many coaches around the league acted as such.

“Teams have a right to make changes," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said this weekend, "but David Blatt is going to be a highly sought-after coach this summer if and when there are openings — if he chooses to stay. You know, after this, you just hope a guy like this is still open to coaching in the NBA…. I’m embarrassed for our league that something like this could happen like this. It’s just bizarre."

Except it's not. Carlisle is the head of the NBA's coaches association and should stand up for a coach losing his job. That's his role, however merely looking at the record is being a slave to the results instead of the process, which someone like Carlisle knows the wrong way to approach any situation.

Blatt had lost respect in the locker room, and for a team that has title aspirations and capabilities, that's unacceptable. They had the best record in the east on talent alone. The goal is not to win. The goal is to be as good as you can possibly be, and Cavs GM David Griffin knew that with David Blatt as his head coach, that wouldn't be possible with this group of players.

That's an important distinction, too. Blatt was hired to coach a group of young players who would respect him because respecting coaches is all they've done their whole life. The game changes with NBA veterans, who have seen enough to question if a guy is up to snuff. Blatt's lack of knowledge of the NBA showed early, from not knowing other teams' tendencies to not understanding how to use timeouts. That lack of basic knowledge makes it hard to coach any group of NBA veterans, nevertheless the accomplished group that Griffin had assembled, starting with LeBron James.

The decision became even easier for Griffin when he looked one seat down on the bench and saw a capable replacement in Tyronn Lue. The long-time NBA veteran was a legit head coaching candidate, and was actually the runner up to Blatt to get the job in the summer of 2014. There would be no growing pains of bringing in an outsider. It was a rare situation that benefitted Cleveland, and Griffin pulled the trigger.

“I am confident [Lue] has the pulse of our team and that he can generate the buy-in required to start to refine the habits and culture we have yet to build," the Cavs GM said Friday. "There’s just a disconnect there right now, a lack of spirit and connectedness that I couldn’t accept.”

Whether it's building a basketball team, playing a sport or operating in business, the only way to win over the long term is to play the process, not the results. Do what is right, and more times than not, you'll come out on the right side.

So while Gregg Popovich can take pot-shots about the situation and other coaches can scream about the injustice done, the reality is David Blatt was a victim of good management. He was hired before James arrived, with management not selling out for LeBron. This was smart. The competence (in general, not necessarily with this move) actually helped attract him back to Cleveland.

Once James came, he did the best he could, but showed a need for serious growth to be an elite NBA coach. Griffin gave him time, but after not seeing enough grown and seeing his locker room dissolve, he made a decision to move on. That's smart. Is it fair to Blatt? Depends on your definition of fair.

He'll get another job and he should. He's a very smart basketball coach who simply needs to learn the NBA game. Some time with Popovich or Carlisle would actually be a great idea. For now though, Lue is the better option. 

Time to see if Griffin's proper process will lead to the desired result.