Lead assistant coach Tyronn Lue will be the new Cavaliers coach for the foreseeable future. He has agreed to a three-year, $9.5 million contract to take over the team, according to Wojnarowski. Lue was in the running for the Cavaliers' head job that went to Blatt in 2014 and was eventually hired as his lead assistant.
Blatt confirmed the news in a statement through his agency.
David Blatt was informed today that he has been fired by the Cavaliers. The following is a statement from David: pic.twitter.com/1dm2G7iWBJ— Priority Sports (@PrioritySports) January 22, 2016
Blatt gets the ax after the Cavaliers' embarrassing 34-point loss at home to the Golden State Warriors on Monday, but Cleveland was still 30-11 and the class of the Eastern Conference despite many injuries. Nevertheless, general manager David Griffin made the decision to move in a different direction.
David Griffin reading off a statement: "When you have the clarity of purpose that we have as a franchise, these decisions make themselves"— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 22, 2016
"Frankly, 'pretty good' is not what we're here for." Cavs GM David Griffin | Blatt said Cavaliers in "pretty good position" after loss to Ws— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) January 22, 2016
Players were so surprised that they thought a different major shakeup was happening.
How surprised were Cavs players today? When team meeting was called, some players speculated Kevin Love had been traded— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) January 22, 2016
The timing of the news is indeed odd, but Blatt's job has been under threat from the minute LeBron James signed with the Cavaliers in the summer of 2014. Blatt, a legendary coach in Europe that nevertheless had no NBA experience prior to taking the Cleveland job, was hired before the possibility of James' return resurfaced.
Their relationship was awkward from the start, though James did not directly play a role in the ultimate decision to fire Blatt now. After initially expressing enthusiasm about Blatt's offense, James demurred as the Cavaliers got off to a poor start in Blatt's first season. The situation became so odd that players were reportedly ignoring Blatt's play calls and even allowing Lue to call timeouts behind Blatt's back. Reports of the players preferring Lue to Blatt date back to December of 2014.
At the time, Blatt's job was in huge jeopardy. However, general manager David Griffin shot down those rumors emphatically in early January of 2015.
"Coach Blatt is our coach, he's going to remain our coach. Do not write that as a vote of confidence. He never needed one. It was never a question. So don't write it that way. I heard the entire audio file of LeBron James' [recent] comments. No more than three different times, he said ‘we are growing together every day; the team grows together every day; and I am happy with who we have at the helm.' But that wasn't a sexy pull quote, so we kept looking for something else until we found something that could sound negative. That narrative is done. No change is being made, period."
Speculation mostly died down after the Cavaliers acquired J.R. Smith, Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert, though there were some strange moments. Blatt was unusually candid about Kevin Love's future contract status in an interview, which irked the Cavaliers' forward. During the Cavaliers' playoff run, James refused to follow Blatt's directive to throw an inbounds pass in the closing seconds of Game 4 against the Chicago Bulls, hitting the game-winner instead.
Still, it appeared that Blatt and his players were finally finding a measure of trust, and Blatt certainly did an excellent job coming up with a gameplan to challenge the Warriors in the NBA Finals without Love or Kyrie Irving. Nevertheless, behind the scenes, he was still on thin ice.
I'll say this too: Multiple people told me during the NBA Finals that Blatt was in trouble. During the NBA Finals. That the Cavs were in.— David Zavac (@DavidZavac) January 22, 2016
This season was largely free of controversy (unless this counts), yet the Cavaliers, despite their gaudy record, have struggled against top competition in recent weeks. They shot terribly in a Christmas Day loss to the Warriors, then blew a double-digit lead at San Antonio before eventually falling. Monday's blowout to the Warriors in the rematch, however, may have been the final straw. The Cavaliers were never competitive, and afterwards, James and Love took thinly veiled shots at each other.
Blatt departs with a regular-season record of 83-40 and one Finals appearance.
Ironically, he nearly accepted a position as Steve Kerr's lead assistant with the Warriors before taking the Cavaliers job.
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SB Nation presents: The Warriors broke the Cavaliers and their fans