INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP)—LeBron James can pick his next team. If it’s the Cleveland Cavaliers, he won’t be selecting their coach.
That was the powerful message from Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who refused to comment Tuesday on reports he has offered a massive contract to Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and adamantly denied that James, the two-time MVP now on free agency’s doorstep, has been running Cleveland’s franchise.
Gilbert added that James will not be consulted during the team’s coaching search.
peaking at a news conference at Cleveland Clinic Courts to introduce new general manager Chris Grant, Gilbert refuted reports that James has had input on past hires and trades, the firing of coach Mike Brown and GM Danny Ferry’s recent departure.
“The concept that LeBron James has been involved in any way, shape or form with firing our head coach, involved in the transition to general manager Chris Grant and will be involved in future coaching decisions and hires is totally, 100 percent and patently false,” Gilbert said. “It’s unfair to him. It’s unfair to the franchise.
“He is a basketball player and a great one and his interests are aligned with our interests, but this concept that this franchise has been handed to a player who is running it and making the decisions is just completely and totally false. He’ll tell you that and Chris will tell you that and I’ll tell you that. The truth is the truth.”
The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer first reported Monday that Gilbert and Izzo talked about the framework of a long-term deal, worth about $6 million a season for up to five years. Izzo makes more than $3 million a season and is under contract through 2016.
The Cavaliers fired Brown less than two weeks following their second-round loss to the Boston Celtics. Brown, named the NBA’s coach of the year in 2009, led the Cavs to 127 regular-season wins the past two seasons but couldn’t get James and the team back to the NBA finals.
Brown’s firing was quickly followed by Ferry’s decision not to return. The upheaval has given the impression the Cavs are in chaos just as James enters free agency. Gilbert, though, said all the decisions were based on his desire to bring a championship to Cleveland, and that while the moves may be risky, they were not done without deep consideration and analysis.
“If you took the other approach that you do nothing and nothing happened, I think the criticism would be just as loud,” Gilbert said. “It was our view that the benefit outweighed the risk of making some significant changes here to get us over the hump and get us to where we need to be.
“This is not about franchise value. This is not about the payroll we spent or didn’t spend. This is driven solely on the motivational factor of delivering a championship to this city. Period. We believe this is LeBron’s goal, it’s Chris Grant’s goal, it’ll be our head coach’s goal. We’re just going to keep going until we get there.”