It’s easy to blame LeBron James for losing the NBA Finals. It’s fun to blame LeBron for losing the NBA Finals. As fun as it is to blame LeBron, he’s not the man in charge. That man is the one to balme to not knowing how to manage a wealth of talent he was given after the Decision was made.
I rarely bet on sports because I don’t like putting money down on things I can’t control. I made a rare exception as the Fab Five got ready to play North Carolina for the NCAA Championship. Steve Fisher coached the Fab 5, a longtime assistant that fell into the head coaching job when his predecessor bailed. He was given a wealth of talent with the Fab Five, but even with all that talent, he was still nothing but a glorified babysitter. The talent was enough to take the team to the Final game the previous year, and there was no reason to believe they would take down North Carolina. A friend offered me a twenty-dollar bet that Michigan would win. I knew it was sucker money, so I took the bet. Even as the game wore down, I knew Michigan would find a way to blow it and the timeout would do them in proved just that. Before he gave me the money, he made me admit that Michigan had the better team. I had no problem admitting this because without the proper leader, it’s that much more difficult to win the final game.
Fast forward to 2011. A longtime assistant falls into a head coaching job and acquires a wealth of talent. Unlike the Fab Five, he had an extra season to work with Dwayne Wade, but he still had a lineup with three superstars and two solid role players in the starting lineup for the Finals,. Although Rick Carlisle is no Dean Smith, he looked sharp, decisive and prepared as Spoelstra looked lost, confused and clueless. Spoelstra’s coaching decisions, or lack thereof, did just as much to take down the Heat as LeBron’s Houdini act in the 4th quarter of every game in the series.
The legends of the NBA became that way because they hd strong leaders in the coaching position to guide them through thier careers. LeBron needs a Phil, a Popovich, even possibly a Pat Riley, to harness that immense talent and turn himself into something more than the Scottie Pippen he is right now. He’ll probably win at some point with Spoelstra, but the path would be much easier with someone who has the coaching talent that Lebron and the rest of the Heat bring to the floor as players.
I’m not calling for Pat Riley to coach, he did the masterful job of putting this group together when I openly mocked people who said the Heat could get the Big Three together. Besides, his hair doesn’t handle South Beach well, so he needs to stay in a temperature-controlled suite. I made jokes during Game 6 at halftime that the Heat named Phil Jackson, but I don’t he’s up for it physically, at least for a year or two. The perfect man for this job is Jerry Sloan. He coached Stockton/Malone for many years and even though he doesn’t have any rings, he has experience coaching superstar talent and he took some time off to recharge his batteries. It probably won’t happen, but it’s one man’s opinion of what should happen and that’s the way I see it.