The View From Pluto: LeBron James' Reputation as 'The Coach Killer'

May 16, 2018
Originally published on May 18, 2018 9:18 am

The Cavs lost against the Boston Celtics to fall 0-2 in the series. LeBron James scored a triple double with 42 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds, but it wasn't enough to overcome a strong second half by Boston. James’ dominance in the playoffs over the years has taken its toll on a number of NBA coaches, including his own.

Coach of the year, fired

Last week the Toronto Raptors fired head coach Dwane Casey after his team was swept by the Cavs in the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second year in a row. Casey was named Coach of the Year by the National Basketball Coaches Association days before, and is the most successful coach in franchise history.

And he wasn't the first coach fired because he couldn't beat James. Frank Vogel, who holds the most wins in Indiana Pacers history, coached the team from 2011 until he was fired in 2016.

"He got knocked out of the playoffs twice when LeBron James was with the Miami Heat."

Coaching LeBron

It's not just coaches who face James that are fired -- it's also his own coaches. The most recent was David Blatt. Blatt was a very successful coach in the EuroLeague, but had never coached in the United State at any level until he was hired by the Cavs in 2014. In 2015, he led the Cavs to the Finals and lost in six games to Golden State.

"LeBron didn't really buy into David Blatt. But most of us from the outside thought Blatt did he pretty well for his first year. He was then fired in his second year mid-season with a 30-11 record. Tyronn Lue came in and they won a title in 2016."

Before their recent title runs, the Cavs fell short under head coach Mike Brown.

"One of winningest coaches in Cavs' history was fired in 2010 after failing to deliver a title."

"Part of it is LeBron tends to praise coaches of teams he's playing against more than his own coach. He doesn't seem to be very warm towards any of his coaches." 

"When you have a great player, it has to do with expectations. For good teams that don't have LeBron, it's time to beat LeBron. And then it's the expectations for the team with LeBron -- that it's time to win a title all the time."

So, what's the upside of coaching LeBron James?

"He's taken four different coaches to the NBA Finals. Mike Brown in 2007; Erik Spoelstra to four consecutive Finals in Miami; David Blatt in 2015, and Ty Lue in 2016 and 2017. Nobody is going to put those four names on a wall and say that's the Mt. Rushmore of NBA coaches. LeBron has made a lot of money for coaches who later on got fired, but a lot of these guys got extensions because they won with LeBron."

The other #23

James' dominance is reminiscent of another No. 23 who wreaked havoc on the Cavs. Future Hall of Fame coach Lenny Wilkens lost to Michael Jordan and the Bulls four times in the playoffs (1988, 1989, 1992 and 1993).

"Wilkens has the misfortune of coming along when Michael Jordan was peaking. Lenny in the summer of 1993 basically resigned."

As for the Cavs now, Pluto says there will be uncertainty if they lose to the Celtics in the Conference Finals. "Could Ty Lue lose his job? Who knows?"

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