That’s the way we would have to describe the news that David Blatt was fired as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers yesterday afternoon.
After all, the wine and gold had the Eastern Conference’s best record, and was on a pace to win 60 games.
GM David Griffin tried to spin that the team was disconnected and felt that new coach Tyronn Lue was the man to unify the roster.
Fair or not, LeBron James is going to be blamed for Blatt’s dismissal, and we do not believe for a second that his opinion regarding the coach who piloted the team to The Finals a year were not well known throughout the organization.
This put immense pressure on James and Lue to deliver a title to the franchise, because now, nothing short of that will justify Blatt’s firing.
The only reason Magic Johnson doesn’t have a reputation as a coach killer is that when he went to Laker management and demanded Paul Westhead be removed in favor of Pat Riley, he led Los Angeles to a title.
The end justified the means.
If the Cavs don’t hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy in late June, James will have blood on his hands.
He and the coach guided a team without two of the three best players on the roster, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, to the brink of a title, stretching the eventual champion Warriors to six games.
Anything less than that will be a failure for James, Griffin, and Dan Gilbert.
Did Blatt have flaws? Yes, he was reactive at times, and could never seem to get a consistent substitution pattern, which had to irritate the players affected by it.
But he knows basketball. Our guess is his knowledge of the sport is much higher than his successor, but that doesn’t matter.
In the NBA, if you don’t get along with the superstars, you don’t last long.
And if you are LeBron James’ coach, don’t count on getting his endorsement ever. He has never developed the relationship with a coach that Michael Jordan had with Phil Jackson, Isiah Thomas had with Chuck Daly, or Tim Duncan has with Gregg Popovich.
That’s on him.
Look, there is no question the franchise is much better off with LeBron, who is still the preeminent player in the sport, but his attitude toward his bosses has to promote a lack of unity with the head coach.
It will be interesting to see what changes Lue will make starting tonight.
Will Mo Williams, Richard Jefferson, and Anderson Varejao get more minutes?
Will Matthew Dellavedova, still the best defender among the point guards, have his time diminished?
Some have speculated that the move could signal a trade is forthcoming for Blatt favorite Timofey Mozgov, but if he is moved, the team still needs a rim protector.
And how will Lue handle Kevin Love? Will Love get more touches inside early in games to establish himself, or will he get the ball only when James and Irving decide that it is prudent?
Will the offense be a ball moving attack or the isolation sets that the Cavs settle into at times for no reason?
And for those saying the Cavs couldn’t win a title with Blatt, the fact is they got closer than ever last year with him at the helm.
Lue? We simply don’t know. He’s never been a head coach in the NBA until today.
There aren’t many coaches with a championship pedigree in the sport right now, besides Popovich.
The only “elite” bench guys are perhaps Rick Carlisle in Dallas, and maybe Doc Rivers with the Clippers. Neither of them are replacing Blatt.
The pressure is squarely on James and Lue to bring a title to Cleveland. Anything less and LeBron will have explaining to do, even if he did have nothing to do with Blatt’s departure.