Erik Spoelstra, Mike Brown and Luke Walton are the only coaches who have not been fired when coaching LeBron James. Currently, Luke Walton is on the hot hot seat and is rumored to be out the door in April, after the Lakers miss the playoffs. Technically, Mike Brown was let go after LeBron bolted from the Cavs. That leaves Erik Spoelstra as last man standing. He survived LeBron for the simple reason that he mattered more than LeBron. Spoelstra was knee deep in the franchise before LeBron came aboard. LeBron annoyance wasn’t going to get him fired. The infrastructure in Miami was one in which Pat Riley was a dictator who ran the show and his disciple was Erik Spoelstra. No player in Miami, past and present, has more power than Riles. LeBron was never going to last in a place where he is number two. And so Miami aside, LeBron’s rep of coach killer- including this year, lingers.
The LeBron hypocrisy: when Mike Brown was fired from the Lakers, he said, “I just don’t think he got a fair shake, honestly.” That’s funny enough to be ridiculous. When has LeBron ever given a coach a fair shake? Certainly not Luke Walton nor David Blatt.
Here are his victims.
Paul Silas. He coached LeBron for 146 games. The Cavs won 69 of them. It was LeBron’s first and second year in the league. His rookie year, the team finished last in the Central, and the following year, next to last. Losing is the number one way a coach loses his job. Cavs GM Jim Paxson was fired as well, so two for the price of one. Silas lost his job around this same exact time in the season, 18 games left before the playoffs, of which the Cas would not appear. Of the firing, James said, “You could kind of tell the way the air was, how things were going around here, there was going to have to be a change.” So not endorsing the firing but endorsing it.
Mike Malone. Interim coach. He was a placeholder who remained as an assistant. He has the Nuggets at the top of the West.
Mike Brown. The Spurs and Pacers assistant pulled off a hiring coup for his first head coaching job. It was incrementally successful for 5 seasons. Two (50) win seasons, back to back. Two (60) win seasons, back to back. A 45 win season thrown in just for good measure. LeBron was an All-Star. The team went to the NBA Finals. The roster was average because the Cavs couldn’t entice anyone to come to Cleveland. It’s been the LeBron failure. He can’t recruit stars who are not his best friends. The only impact player who has come to play with him because he asked (begged) was Kevin Love.
David Blatt. In all fairness, what happened to Blatt was a fluke. He was never supposed to coach a generational talent. LeBron was supposed to stay in Miami and Blatt was going to nurture and mold Kyrie Irving. When LeBron came back home, it changed everything. A European rookie coach was going to suffer the pains of being under the LeBron spotlight. It was doomed to fail. That said, David Blatt won games. After Blatt’s dismissal, LeBron said “I found out about it just like every other player on this team.” Okay, perhaps. It doesn’t mean he wasn’t complicit. When Tyronn Lue was hired, LeBron said of Lue in reference to their friendship, “he’s still the coach and I’m underneath him.” Right. Okay, LeBron. Keep up with the jokes.
Luke Walton. Walton hasn’t been fired yet but it’s coming. To be fair to LeBron, even if he hadn’t joined the Lakers, Luke would not have lasted. Magic and Co. didn’t hire Luke. They want their own guy in there. In addition, Luke is married to an offense his players can’t run. He still has Golden State and strength in numbers on the brain. He still hasn’t noticed the Lakers have zero 3-point shooting talent but that is the offense. His substitutions are dismal, his after timeouts are predictable, and his adjustments are…what adjustments? And yet. Luke Walton didn’t decide to bring in Michael Beasley, who didn’t last the season. Nor a mediocre Lance Stephenson. He didn’t trade a big man (Ivica Zubac) for a shooter (Mike Muscala) who can’t shoot, leaving the Lakers vulnerable on the inside because Magic is trying to accommodate LeBron’s game. But LeBron has a hand in the Lakers mess, the toxic locker room, and all the drama. LeBron doesn’t respect Luke as a playoff coach and that means Luke is off to UCLA or Arizona come summer.