David Blatt Has Been “Liberated”, Says Rick Carlisle

As president of the NBA Coaches Association, Mavs Coach Rick Carlisle was going to have an opinion about the firing of David Blatt. One of his members abruptly, and, to many, wrongly lost his job, so a statement from Carlisle had to be made. He called the move “bizarre”.

Here you have a coach whose team is on track to win 60 games and he is kicked out the door. Carlisle’s reaction to the Blatt firing came a few hours before Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski linked the Blatt firing to LeBron James. The report made a mockery of LeBron’s shock at the whole thing.

The one(s) who were truly shocked were Rick Carlisle and fellow NBA coaches.

It’s a tough profession, a tough life. Coaches are paid less than their star players and right off the bat they have to fight for credibility. The hiring of David Blatt, a successful European coach with championships under his belt, was seen as the NBA (finally) expanding their reach and their thinking. No longer were former player, like Carlisle, seen as the gold standard for the profession. There were other paths.

Not so much. Blatt couldn’t last on the job two years.

“He did a tremendous job just from a strategic standpoint. If you look at his record, this is bizarre, but he has the second best record (percentage wise) of all time in the NBA behind Phil Jackson. He’s got a higher winning percentage than Red Auerbach and Pat Riley, a whole laundry list of the greatest coaches ever. The bottom line with this is that I know a couple of things about coaching in this league. I know integrity. I know knowledge. I can’t speak to the internal things that (might) have gone on in Cleveland. I’ve read some of the comments that came from the Cavaliers. Teams have a right to make changes.” (Rick Carlise, Dallas Morning News)

Integrity and coaches keeping their jobs don’t always line up on the same side of the ledger, not when you have star players with an agenda, as Wojnarowski claims. A coach has to get his star player on board and as tired a cliche as it is to hear “buy in”, it is true. All you had to do was watch the Cavaliers waving the white flag on Monday night against the Warriors to see how they had decided, for whatever reason, to quit on Blatt.

Carlisle wasn’t the only coach bummed.

“Back in my day, you used to have to at least lose games before you got fired.” (Scott Skiles)

“You try to figure out what he didn’t do in this case that was so wrong that he got fired. Great players make great coaches. Those players have to be willing to buy into your beliefs.” (Byron Scott)

“This is another case, as usual, where he’s a heck of a coach. But circumstances often dictate what happens to some coaches. It has nothing to do with abilities.” (Gregg Popovich)

“Blatt is a heck of a coach and is doing a heck of a job. He had the most scrutinized job that you could possibly have. I think the reward for coaching LeBron is you get scrutinized. It really is. It’s hard. You have a great record, the best in the East and you get fired for it. Unfortunately, being in this as long as I’ve been in it, you see it all the time. It’s happened to me. It’s tough.” (Doc Rivers)

But it’s never happened to Rivers after winning 30 games in the first half, on track to win 60 games, and with the third best team (record wise). Elias Sports Bureau confirms that. Blatt is the first and only head coach to be fired when his team had the best record in the conference.

“The other side of it is that a good man perhaps has been liberated.” (Rick Carlisle)

Liberated? As in free from imprisonment? Was Carlisle referring to the LeBron James prison that had Blatt in a chokehold? Blatt was never going to win James over.

But Blatt won his fellow coaches over and is seen as the victim in this “bizarre” but not surprising turn of events.


photo via llananba