For the most part, as a coach, if you win, everybody’s pretty copacetic. If you lose, things that were quirky and fun when you were winning become a problem and a reason there are more L’s than W’s. There’s no science behind that thought, but it plays out everywhere.
The one place where winning doesn’t keep you hired? The NBA.
If you’re surprised by the firing of Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt, don’t be. We’ve seen Mark Jackson get canned in Golden State after winning 50-plus games and Lionel Hollins in Memphis get the pink slip not a calendar year after winning the NBA Coach of the Year award within the last three years.
The rude truth of the NBA is that it’s unique in one very big aspect: the most powerful guys are the ones playing.
In professional football, baseball, and hockey, the guys writing the checks are the ones that carry the skeleton key to the organization.
For the most part, those guys like money and success. For the most part, both of those come along with winning. Ten years ago, nobody was buying Golden State Warriors jerseys.
The media can vomit out whatever nonsense they want about Lebron James not knowing about Blatt being canned, and to be honest, last night in an in-game interview against the Clippers, Blatt seemed almost blissfully at peace, like being in a relationship with a girl he realized he didn’t want to be with was coming to an end quick, fast, and in a hurry.
Stars run the NBA, not anyone else. Look at the guaranteed contracts, television deals that are about to allow salaries to continue to explode. “No one man is bigger than the team” is cute, but it doesn’t fly in the NBA. If the star(s) aren’t happy, folks are going to be miserable and heads will roll.
Blatt being fired (rumors were out there that he missed his family back overseas anyway, so this is probably a blessing for him) after coaching a depleted roster to within two games of a NBA title and the following it up with a 30-11 start shows you that wins don’t matter in the NBA.
Making the power brokers happy is what carries the mail.
Tyronn Lue must have some sort of rapport with the guys on the club, and this has to have been in the works for at least a bit. You don’t just wake up the night after a win over a decent Clippers team, fire the head coach, and then announce a three-year deal with another guy without some kind of discussion on all of those things beforehand.
There’s a lot of success in patience. Hell, folks wanted to run Erik Spoelstra out of Miami after they got dusted by the Dallas Mavericks in the inception year of The Big Three (Miami Heat style). Pat Riley wasn’t about that action, and it didn’t happen. Patience is a rarity in the NBA, especially when 20 and young 30-somethings are consulted on the heavy decision making.
Blatt should hang his head high, because he did pretty damn well when it comes to wins and losses. In most places, that’s all you need, because in the end, that’s your job.
This is the NBA though. Get fired for anything but losing anywhere else. But understand you can get fired for winning here, and only here, too.