When David Blatt was with the Cleveland Cavaliers from the start of the 2014-15 season to the middle of this season, much was made about the reported lack of respect Cavaliers superstar LeBron James showed the coach.
Whether James disrespected Blatt publicly or privately, it seemed inevitable that the team would have to make a coaching change at some point. The two just didn't appear to see eye to eye, so Cleveland decided back in January—despite the fact that the team had made the NBA Finals last year and held the best record (30-11) in the Eastern Conference at the time—that it was time to make a change.
Blatt was out; assistant coach Tyronn Lue was in.
One of Lue's first tasks was to make sure that team chemistry—a key for a squad with championship aspirations—was good. Teams need stars, even James, to know that they cannot do whatever they want. While some coaches may be cautious with challenging a superstar, Lue wasted little time in setting the tone, according to Ken Berger of CBS Sports:
"They felt they were doing this for LeBron," the person familiar with the internal workings of the team said, "instead of with LeBron."
Lue changed that the moment he first told James in a huddle, "Shut the [expletive up]. I got this," according to a person who heard the exchange—and a few others like it. If Lue was going to get the stars and the role players to buy into the strategic changes he was determined to implement—play faster, space the floor, move the ball, take full advantage of Love's versatility—he was going to have to restore order first.
And that's exactly what he did.
Under Blatt, James had been known to take over huddles, even overruling the coach when it came to play calls. That was something Lue wasn't going to let slide when he took over, and he made sure his superstar realized it.
Whatever Lue has done as the coach of the Cavaliers has worked. Cleveland wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the East by going 27-14 after the coaching change and, more importantly, has gone 9-0 so far in the playoffs. No matter the coach, this team was talented enough to win its conference. It's the way the Cavaliers are playing right now that has them looking like legitimate title contenders—and that's why Cleveland made the coaching change.
People will judge Lue only by how his team does in the Finals, should Cleveland make it back there. But as long as he keeps his players in check, the team hierarchy should not be an issue.