The Cleveland Cavaliers hired David Blatt on June 20, 2014, just weeks before LeBron James made the decision to leave the Miami Heat and return to his hometown Cavaliers. Blatt was hired without much NBA experience, but had an incredible international coaching pedigree, and at the time of his hiring, was tasked with coaching a scrappy young Cavaliers team that was building up Kyrie Irving as the foundation to their future.
James’ return forced Blatt to change course. He was no longer coaching a young, playoff-hopeful Cavaliers squad. He was now coaching an NBA Finals favorite that would eventually lose to the Golden State Warriors in said Finals. At the time, it felt like a somewhat disappointing result, but now we know just how great those Warriors were. There is no shame in losing to that squad.
After his first season in Cleveland ended with an NBA Finals loss, Blatt only made it 41 games into the 2015-16 season before the Cavaliers fired him. The narrative at the time was that Blatt was in over his head, that LeBron James didn’t respect him, and that he couldn’t control these NBA stars, among other things. How much of that is fact versus fiction has never really been addressed, but the Blatt era in Cleveland just didn’t work. Blatt is back in Europe now, coaching like he never left.