LeBron James Comments on 'Coach Killer' Label, Criticism and More

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 27, 2016

FILE - In this May 24, 2015, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt yells at his team as LeBron James (23) looks on during overtime of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks in Cleveland. Blatt was handed a star-studded team expected to win an NBA title, but not a handbook on how to get the Cavaliers to the top. For Blatt, who left his family in Israel to pursue his dream, the journey has been difficult with speculation about his future partly undermining his success. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)
Ron Schwane/Associated Press

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James took exception to the idea he orchestrated David Blatt's exit or that he holds undue influence over whom his team hires as its head coach.  

The 31-year-old also denied he ever intentionally undercut his coach's advice to the players in order to achieve his own goals. ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin, who noted how "some have labeled [LeBron] a 'coach killer,'" had James' comments to the media on Wednesday:

It sucks. But what can I do about it? I've never, in my time since I picked up a basketball, ever undermined a coach, ever disrespected a coach. You ask any of my little league coaches, my high school coaches, coaches I've played for in tournaments, camps, my NBA coaches. I've always respected what they wanted to do. And I'm not the owner of a team, I'm not the GM of a team. I'm the player of a team.

ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst reported on Jan. 22 the Cavaliers didn't solicit James' advice before firing Blatt, but that did little to dispel the perception LeBron was the architect behind Blatt's firing and the subsequent hiring of Tyronn Lue as the team's head coach.

Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Jan. 22 that James and his agent, Rich Paul, have pushed for Lue to be the head coach going all the way back to last year.

Piggybacking on the speculation about LeBron and Blatt, Miami Heat minority owner Raanan Katz claimed in an interview with ONE.co.il's 102 FM, an Israeli radio show, that James wanted to fire head coach Erik Spoelstra when he was a member of the Heat, as relayed by Bleacher Report's David Pick:

With the Miami Heat, LeBron Jamesbefore and after his four seasons when his contract was up with the teammade it clear that he wanted to dump head coach Erik Spoelstra. At one point, [Heat president] Pat Riley called LeBron into his office said that no one will tell him how to run the organization. Riley told James that Spoelstra is his guy and that firing Spoelstra is out of the question. That was the main reason LeBron returned to Cleveland.

James responded that he has never met Katz before, per McMenamin.

On one hand, a coach's fate shouldn't be in the hands of one player, even if that player is LeBron. A multitude of factors should be considered when determining whether a head coach should keep his job.

On the other hand, James should undoubtedly have at least some input into who is coaching the Cavs, just as Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and every other member of the roster should. LeBron argued he'll continue to have an open dialogue with the front office about any basketball decision, per Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:

LeBron and the rest of the Cavaliers have a lot riding on Lue's sideline success. Given the way everything has unfolded, Lue looks like the guy the team wanted all along, since Blatt was hired before James returned to Cleveland.  

If Lue is a failure, not only will it reflect poorly on the organization, but the Cavs will have to start all over and hope a different head coach is the key to winning an NBA title.