Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr and More NBA Coaches React to David Blatt's Firing

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2016

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt cheers on his players in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets Friday, Jan. 15, 2016, in Houston. Cleveland won 91-77. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

Following the Cleveland Cavaliers' surprise firing of David Blatt as their head coach Friday, coaches from around the NBA are speaking out about the decision.

Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who is president of the NBA Coaches Association, spoke to reporters Friday about the ramifications of what Cleveland did, per Nick Schwartz of USA Today's For The Win:

Teams have a right to make changes, but David Blatt is going to be a highly sought-after coach this summer if and when there are openings — if he chooses to stay. You know, after this, you just hope a guy like this is still open to coaching in the NBA.... I'm embarrassed for our league that something like this could happen like this. It's just bizarre.

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said prior to his team's game Friday night that being in the business brings an understanding of how things go, per Janis Carr of the Orange County Register.

"All of us in the business know how it works," Popovich said. "We all feel badly when it happens to a colleague. He [Blatt] is a heck of a coach, (but) circumstances often dictate what happens to certain coaches that have nothing to do with their record."

The Cavaliers enter their game against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night with a 30-11 record, the best in the Eastern Conference. They reached the NBA Finals last season under Blatt before losing to Golden State in six games. 

Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg—who is learning about the difficulties of taking over from a successful head coach after succeeding Tom Thibodeau, the man who led them to five playoff appearances in five seasons—told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times pressure changes everything. 

"There's all kinds of pressure in this league, whatever job you have," Hoiberg said. "But when you take over a job where championship is what you're shooting for and the way your roster is built, there's always extra pressure, sure."

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Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy did not hide his feelings about the way Cleveland's front office handled the situation with Blatt, per David Mayo of MLive.com:

"We have no idea why it happened," Van Gundy said. "But there's no explanation that can include that he didn't meet expectations, in terms of winning. There's absolutely no way to even make a flimsy case, let alone a solid one, for that."

Van Gundy added that he got in touch with Blatt, using "a few expletives" about how things played out. He also praised the job Cleveland's now-former coach did in spite of all the team's injuries:

He went to the NBA Finals, and who knows what would've happened had he had Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving? And even without them, that was a damn competitive series. He did a hell of a job. Then he comes back this year, and at the halfway point, despite having injuries, and Kyrie missing most of the time, (Iman) Shumpert missing time, he's on pace to win 60 games, and he's on top of the (conference).

The injuries Blatt had to deal with are one of the least-talked about aspects of his job in Cleveland. LeBron James tried his best to carry the Cavaliers in the finals last season, but Blatt had to keep a sense of optimism in that locker room as players like Irving and Love went down. 

Lakers head coach Byron Scott, who coached Cleveland for three seasons right after James went to Miami, told Carr there can be factors in the front office that play a bigger role than what a team's record looks like:

You could be on a team doing extremely well like Cleveland and still you lose your job. 

So again it goes back to sometimes you don't know what guys are looking for, what owners are looking for, what [general managers] are looking for. I feel bad for David. He's a great guy. Obviously, from the outside looking in, you try to figure out what he didn't do, or what did he do in this case, that was so wrong that he got fired.

According to Dan Graf of FoxSports.com, Blatt owns the dubious distinction of owning the best record of any NBA head coach (83-40 overall, .675 winning percentage) in history to be fired from his job. 

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr even expanded things out beyond Blatt's firing to another dismissal from earlier this season, per Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:

The fact that Kevin McHale and David Blatt - two of the final four participants last year - have both been fired, it's crazy. Maybe Mike Budenholzer and I should be worried about our jobs, too. 

It's a shame, but it's a different organization. They have to do what they're going to do. I feel for David. It just seems crazy that he would be fired after having so much success, but that's the business we're in.

When the Cavaliers announced Blatt's firing and Tyronn Lue's promotion, GM David Griffin told reporters (per ESPN.com) he needed to see more cohesiveness from the team. 

"What I see is that we need to build a collective spirit, a strength of spirit, a collective will," Griffin said. "Elite teams always have that, and you see it everywhere. To be truly elite, we have to buy into a set of values and principles that we believe in. That becomes our identity."

As Carlisle said, it's any team's prerogative to do what it believes is in its best interest. The Cavaliers felt like they had to make a change to reach the heights they expected before the season began. 

But it's also a dangerous precedent to set, which is what Carlisle is saying. Being a coach in the NBA is hard enough, but when wins and losses don't matter, finding success becomes a nearly impossible task. 


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