Tuesday, February 2, 2016

'Crab Legs & Crab Dribbles': NBA and NFL Coach Firing Controversy

When former Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt got fired last week in lieu of his assistant coach, Tyronn Lue, both Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy and Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle made public comments on how much of a travesty it was that Blatt (who 'coached' the Cavs to the NBA Finals last year and had the best record in the Eastern Conference at the time) got the axe.

LeBron James was the immediate culprit for the sudden change in coaching, accused of coaxing upper management into getting rid of Blatt, who was hired to coach Cleveland before it knew its favorite son would be 'coming home'.  Hoops fans flooded social media with cynical banter, Vines, and GIFs; most of them are comedy, but some of them imply that the problem with today's NBA is the players are whiny and have more power than the coaches.

When something like this happens in the NFL though, why is there not the same clamour and uproar?  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 6-10 this year after going 2-14 the previous year.  No, a 6-win season doesn't exactly make you Vince Lombardi or anything, but when you consider a 25-percent increase in wins, which amounts to a quarter of the season, it would be hard to think that a coach would get fired after such an improvement .  But it happened in Tampa.  The Bucs promoted offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to head coach.

Lovie got the pink slip.  No one said a single word.
The easiest speculation is that Tampa executives fawned over Koetter's ability to implement an offensive gameplan and his development of 2015 No. 1 NFL Draft pick quarterback Jameis Winston during his rookie season.  Out of fear that Koetter would accept a vacant head coaching gig elsewhere, they pulled the plug on the Lovie Smith era after only two seasons.

No NFL coach said a single word.

Maybe they understand that it's a just business.  Maybe they understand that Lovie is black, and in a league dealing with minority hiring issues, it's too touchy of a subject.  The NFL is such a conglomerate that speaking out on other organizations hiring practices might hurt you more than it would help you.

Flashback to the 2015 Eastern Conference playoffs between the Cavs and the Chicago Bulls.  Cleveland has a chance to win the game in Chicago and Blatt draws up the final play with 1.5 seconds to go.  He wants LeBron to inbound the ball.  LeBron said hell no, I'm taking the shot.  Whether or not he made the shot is irrelevant (he did, a deep two-pointer from the corner at the buzzer) when you ask simply who was Blatt originally dialing up for that final shot? J.R. Smith?  Iman Shumpert??  Matthew Dellavedova???  (Sidenote: Blatt tried calling a timeout before this sequence. The Cavs did not have any left and this would have resulted in a technical foul.  Lue jumped off the bench to physically pull Blatt away from the referee so he wouldn't see him signaling for timeout.)  The argument can be made that LeBron saved Blatt's job that day.

Blatt was hired to coach Andrew Wiggins; not LeBron.
Ultimately for Blatt, losing to the uptempo Golden State Warriors in the Finalst last summer after being up 2-1 in the series, a 30+ point blowout loss to the Warriors this January where the Cavs looked totally inept, and not being able to get Kevin Love enough touches and exploit his full offensive repertoire, the writing was on the wall.

Lue plans on pushing the ball up the court (a testament to his assistant coaching days under Doc Rivers) more and getting deeper outlets in transition.  Whether or not this new method will help in another meeting with Golden State remains to be seen but it's evident the Cavs don't think their 'ground-and-pound' strategy will work anymore.

Regardless, both Blatt and Smith were indirectly effected by the team's personnel and the person that replaced them was deemed as a better fit for that personnel.

Business as usual.

There's things wrong with the NBA like players coming out of college too early and the intentional fouling rule.

But just like the NFL it's a business and coaches can get dropped just as fast as players do.  Saying that there's something wrong with today's NBA from this standpoint and ignoring what happens in today's NFL is unfair.