Pat Riley Responds to Claims LeBron James Wanted Erik Spoelstra Fired

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2016

Miami Heats' LeBron James (6) talks to coach Eric Spoelstra in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, in Philadelphia. The Heat won 99-79. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
Michael Perez/Associated Press

LeBron James has been referred to as a "coach killer" in the wake of David Blatt's firing from the Cleveland Cavaliers, but Miami Heat President Pat Riley insisted Thursday that LeBron didn't live up to that moniker during his time with the Heat.

According to ESPN.com's Michael Wallace, Riley said James never asked him to part ways with head coach Erik Spoelstra at any point in his tenure: "Not from him to me, ever. So a lot of stuff is following him out the door. Whether it's right or wrong, it's just the nature of it. But as far as that goes, no, he never, ever walked in and said anything."

Rumors that LeBron attempted to push Spoelstra out of power surfaced Tuesday after Heat minority owner Raanan Katz was interviewed by Ofira Asayag of ONE.co.il's 102FM in Israel.

Per a transcript of the interview provided by Bleacher Report's David Pick, Katz apparently said LeBron pushed to have Spoelstra fired only to be rebuffed by Riley:

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, Pat Riley called LeBron into his office [and] 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.

Following the release of the interview, Katz denied making such allegations against James, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

Barry Jackson @flasportsbuzz

Heat minority owner Ranaan Katz said 2 hrs ago that contrary to a report on Twitter, he never said LeBron tried to get Spo fired in Miami.

Barry Jackson @flasportsbuzz

... Katz said he has no information that LeBron tried to get Spoelstra dismissed.

Per Jackson, Katz said his comments were incorrectly translated from Hebrew to English, which created the controversy.

James also denied any involvement in Blatt's firing, and he lamented the reputation he has gained as someone who runs coaches out of town, according to ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin:

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.

While LeBron and Spoelstra may have had disagreements at times, they enjoyed a great deal of success together with four NBA Finals appearances and two championships.

James and Blatt reached the NBA Finals in their only season together and appeared to be well on their way to getting back there before Blatt was fired.

LeBron is bound to receive criticism for every big move that happens since it is assumed by some that a superstar of his caliber pulls the strings.

He has made it abundantly clear that isn't the case in Cleveland, and based on Riley's comments, it may very well have been overblown in Miami as well.

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