David Blatt was fired on Friday afternoon, sending Twitter into an uproar and shocking most NBA observers. The Cleveland Cavaliers immediately hired assistant head coach Tyronn Lue and extended him on a three-year deal, making the change even though the team sits atop the Eastern Conference with a 30-12 record.
Rick Carlisle, the president of the NBA Coaches Association, strongly defended David Blatt on Friday before the Mavericks' game against the Thunder with this incredibly thorough response, as transcribed by the Dallas Morning News.
"It's a shocker. It's just a real shocker. I've gotten to know David in the last year and a half since he came over and he's one of the greatest coaches in European history. The ironic thing about this is he adjusted and adapted to the NBA game, in my opinion, much quicker than any of us could have adjusted and adapted to the European game.
I mean, 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 coaching record (by percentage) 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. And 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.
But David Blatt is going to be a highly sought-after coach this summer, if and when there are openings -- if he chooses to stay. After this, you just hope a guy like this is still open to coaching in the NBA. I've coached against him many times. We had two exhibitions and we've had three regular-season game and we lost an overtime game to him and their team last week. He's done some phenomenal things adjusting to this league. I'm embarrassed for our league that something like this could happen. It's just bizarre. Now is Tyronn Lue going to coach the All-Star Game? It just leaves you with a bit of an empty feeling. Because Blatt's a great guy and he did a great job there.
Look, I'm very fortunate. I've got the greatest owner in sports history, in my opinion. We went through some rough times the first couple of years, and Mark could have bailed on me. But he stayed the course. He believed in me. I've learned a ton from him. I'm in a very strong position here with a long contract that's fully guaranteed, in large part because of the relationship that we've built and his belief in me. Change is an absolute in this business. Chuck Daly once said that the NBA is a league of dynamic change and great opportunity. When you see things like this, you never come to grips with such a statement, it's just really true. Blatt's a great guy and one of the best coaches in history. He'll be a Hall of Fame coach, no question, just purely on his European record and international record and Olympic record.
But in the meantime, everybody will have opinions and so forth. The other side of it is, a good man perhaps has been liberated and is now going to have some great options and he'll find a much better situation here if he wants it. And a guy like him deserves that."
The Cavaliers' 132-98 blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday surely impacted the team's decision to move away from Blatt, who it was also reported had lost some of his player's attention. Lue is an NBA veteran, younger and likely more relatable as a coach.
However, Blatt now has the highest win percentage ever for a coach who was fired. As Carlisle said, he should quickly find work somewhere else in the NBA. Really, his situation is one that a first-time head coach should never have to face.