Just months removed from a 2015 NBA Finals loss to the Golden State Warriors, the Cleveland Cavaliers fired head coach David Blatt on Friday, according to the Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, and general manager David Griffin addressed reporters shortly after the news broke to discuss the stunning turn of events.
Not only did Griffin confirm the team promoted assistant Tyronn Lue to head coach, as Wojnarowski first reported, but also he explained the rationale behind the shake-up despite Cleveland's first-place standing (30-11) in the Eastern Conference.
According to ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin, Griffin didn't pull any punches at the start of his press conference:
David Griffin reading off a statement: "When you have the clarity of purpose that we have as a franchise, these decisions make themselves"— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 22, 2016
"I'm doing this because I believe in this team, maybe more than they believe in themselves sometimes," Griffin said, per the Associated Press' Tom Withers. "This team is not galvanized after wins. This team has not handled expectations well."
Additionally, Griffin confirmed he didn't consult with any players—including LeBron James—before making the final call, per the Akron Beacon Journal's Jason Lloyd:
Griff says didn't discuss this with players. "I'm in locker room, I know what it's supposed to feel like. I didn't need to ask questions"— Jason Lloyd (@JasonLloydABJ) January 22, 2016
The GM then went out of his way to dispel a notion that has bothered him, according to McMenamin:
Griffin: "LeBron doesn't run this organization. LeBron is about this organization and of this organization." Says it's an unfair stigma.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 22, 2016
Griffin also spoke of establishing more chemistry and forming an identity—something he thinks the Cavaliers lacked under Blatt's leadership, per USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt:
Cavs GM David Griffin on locker room: “There’s just a disconnect right now, a lack of spirit and disconnectedness I can’t accept.”— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) January 22, 2016
Griffin just said team has no identity. Team took two steps forward, one step back, this season, Grifin said.— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) January 22, 2016
A major point of emphasis Friday afternoon was the concept of not settling, which Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver noted was interesting, given some of Blatt's recent statements:
"Frankly, 'pretty good' is not what we're here for." Cavs GM David Griffin | Blatt said Cavaliers in "pretty good position" after loss to Ws— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) January 22, 2016
CBS Sports' Matt Moore outlined one of the key factors that contributed to Griffin's tough decision:
"And sometimes you can be winning games and actually get worse.” - David Griffin in what I want to explain to SO MANY FANS— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) January 22, 2016
There was also plenty of discussion regarding the composition of Cleveland's coaching staff, per Lloyd:
Griff on stability of rest of staff: "I feel like we won’t miss a whole lot, but we’ll gain a lot in areas that are critical to us."— Jason Lloyd (@JasonLloydABJ) January 22, 2016
Looking ahead, Griffin sounded confident in Lue's ability to lead the franchise in ways Blatt couldn't, according to Fox Sports Ohio's Sam Amico:
Cavs' David Griffin: More than confident Ty Lue will "refine the culture we have yet to build." Lue is not interim. He's head coach, period.— Sam Amico (@AmicoHoops) January 22, 2016
"Tyronn Lue is not a better basketball coach; he's a better basketball coach for this team right now," Griffin said, per Cavs.com's Joe Gabriele.
Firing Blatt was a risky move based on the way the Cavaliers have racked up wins over the past season-and-a-half, but it had become clear lately—especially during their 34-point loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday—that the team was performing below expectations tactically.
Kevin Love has produced glimpses of greatness since first suiting up in Wine and Gold, but Blatt was never able to maximize his versatile skill set following Love's years of dominance as a stretch 4 with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Now it's on Lue to correct the issues and provide a steady foundation for the Cavaliers to develop as they seek to maximize LeBron's waning prime years as ferocious competition evolves in the Western Conference.
The Cavaliers have plenty of time to receive an injection of confidence, and an 11-year NBA veteran like Lue, who has coached under Doc Rivers, figures to have a good shot at revitalizing the worn-down Eastern Conference champs.