It’s tempting to see David Blatt‘s recent comments about coaches getting along with their star players as a thinly-veiled shot at LeBron James. Depending on how you choose to look at Blatt’s sudden departure from Cleveland earlier this year, you might argue that it was due directly to his lukewarm relationship with LeBron. Blatt might also agree with that assessment. In a recent interview with Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports, the former Cavs coach sounded off about the harsh realities of helming an NBA team:
“The role of the coach is much larger as far as impact and persona,” Blatt said. “It’s much more of a coaches’ show. In the NBA, it’s a players’ show.”
He also said: “You better be on the same page as your best player. If not, you’re going to be in trouble.”
A little bit of context is in order here. Blatt was making a more general point about the major differences between coaching in Europe and coaching in America, but who could blame him for feeling a little bitter about how things played out in his first NBA gig? After all, the Cavs were just coming off a trip to the Finals the season prior and were 30-11 (No. 1 in the East) when he was handed his walking papers. The perception that he was ousted simply because LeBron didn’t click with him very well seems awfully fickle.
Then again, there’s simply no denying how much the culture of this team has changed since. Under Tyronn Lue, their chemistry on and off the court has at times reached absurd levels. If the story about Lue telling LeBron to “shut the f*ck up” in a huddle earlier this season is to be believed, then gaining the respect of your superstar player is a delicate dance that requires mind-altering levels of interpersonal finesse and psychological agility.
What’s more, it seems as though Blatt’s well-documented inability to connect with LeBron has made several NBA teams wary about bringing him on as head coach. In that same article, Blatt indicated that although he’s interviewed for several head coaching positions around the league, he might very well have exhausted all his options. He’s reluctant to take an assistant job at this point in his career, so a return to Europe is looking increasingly likely.
Which would be a shame, as Blatt has proved himself more than capable. But if this experience has taught him anything, it’s that you have to be adept at so many more games beyond the one played on the court if you want to survive here for long.