LeBron James isn’t a coach killer.
He’s just difficult to coach.
In response to the coach-killing sentiments that have flooded the general basketball sphere since the Cleveland Cavaliers fired head coach David Blatt, who wasn’t a LeBron favorite, in favor of assistant Tyronn Lue, a purported LeBron favorite, Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com dropped an even-keeled piece that explored King James’ history with coaches.
Windhorst points out that LeBron hasn’t been involved in many sideline scandals over the last decade-plus, but he did confirm that the 31-year-old has, historically, been difficult to coach. One of his anecdotes specifically pertained to Mike Krzyzewski’s early experiences with LeBron for Team USA:
Is James sometimes extremely challenging to coaches, especially when he first starts playing for them? Yes.
Erik Spoelstra had some of the most trying days of his career in his first months as James’ coach in 2010. Mike Krzyzewski considered cutting James after his first training camp with Team USA in 2006. But both coaches ultimately experienced huge success with James; Spoelstra won two titles and Krzyzewski won two gold medals.
LeBron was fresh out of his teenage years back in 2006, so it’s not especially surprising a seasoned Coach K had issues. He deals with college kids on a daily basis, but Team USA is supposed to be a billboard for professionalism. The roster is typically stacked with present-day superstars who have been around the block once or twice and know how to be coached.
The Spoelstra tidbit is perhaps more telling.
LeBron is championing an era that has seen players gain unprecedented control. They are doing their teams, the league, favors, not the other way around. And that’s given them a power advantage.
It’s nonetheless odd, if wrong, that LeBron would make life difficult for Spoelstra. He chose Miami when Spoelstra was at the helm. The Heat were not his team. It doesn’t matter that, as Windhorst pointed out, both Coach K and Spoelstra wanted him back. Just because LeBron thinks he knows better, just because he knows he’s smarter, does that give him the right to provide pushback until his coach in question gives him a reason not to?
The great debate rages on.