Despite his millions, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has made more missteps than any billionaire not named Donald Sterling. While his stumbles haven’t gone virile, Gilbert should be embarrassed at how he’s run his NBA franchise aground.
When LeBron agreed last summer to return to Cleveland, Gilbert looked as if he’d struck gold. Why would the most marketable athlete in America want to return to Cleveland?
Unfinished business, LeBron told everybody.
LeBron’s business was bringing Northeast Ohio an NBA championship, and Northeast Ohio has needed a title, something tangible that might validate what this Rust Belt region of Middle America is about.
But you don’t win titles without building a team first, and what LeBron, idled now with knee and back problems, returned to was a collection of players who are no more a team than the Cavaliers were when Mike Brown coached the franchise last season.
And that’s because of Gilbert.
How could he put LeBron’s talent in the hands of a man who’d never coached a minute of NBA ball? Forget about all the success David Blatt, 55, had in Europe and Israel. His successes abroad haven’t translated in the United States. They never will either.
Hiring Blatt to coach the Cavaliers, even if LeBron had not decided to return, was like the owner of Real Madrid, one of the world’s premier fùtbol franchises, hiring an American to coach his soccer team. Gilbert should have hired a pro and not a coach in training.
Blatt, the quintessential coach in training, seems not to understand the nuances that make basketball, America-style, the global standard. He hasn’t been able to convince his players that his X's and O's can match those of men with NBA pedigrees that go back decades.
So bad is Blatt at managing talent that he’s on the verge of losing command. He can talk tough about how his team isn’t competitive, how his team doesn’t play hard or how his team isn’t playing lock-down defense, but these are areas that a coach like Doc Rivers or Gregg Popovich fixes.
Blatt can’t fix a thing; he doesn’t know the NBA game well enough, which is why the Cavaliers are a team two steps ahead of mediocre.
It’s not Blatt’s fault, however, that he can’t coach. He was offered a dream job for a basketball coach; he accepted it.
How he got that job offer is a question that remains unanswered, but the “how” isn’t as important as the “who” behind the offer.
The “who” here is Dan Gilbert, the slick-talking Detroit transplant who rode into town in 2005 with so much promise and has allowed that promise to slip away. His bad choice of a coach has tamped down the enthusiasm Clevelanders had for LeBron’s homecoming.
No one can tell Gilbert that he should sell his franchise. He’s sitting on a cash machine, and he’s going to rake in the millions as fast as he does with the casino he owns in the heart of Downtown Cleveland.
What people can tell Gilbert — and what LeBron should tell him — is that he needs to fire another coach, because his Cavaliers will win no titles, not this season or next, with Dave Blatt as their coach.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak)