One of the most astounding, dramatic, history-ridden, legacy-defining, destiny-fulfilling NBA Finals came to an end last night as the Cleveland Cavaliers snapped their city's 52-year championship drought in the form of a 93-89 Game 7 victory over the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Here's what college coaches can learn from these Finals:
- Don't be afraid to make big decisions -- and make them immediately
As recently as Jan. 23, David Blatt was the Cavs' head coach. By Jan. 24, he wasn't. Blatt compiled an 83-40 overall record with a trip to the Finals and the top record in the Eastern Conference at the time of his firing, but losses to the club's top contenders for the NBA title -- specifically a 132-98 whipping at the hands of the Warriors six days prior -- convinced Cavs management he wasn't the right person to take the team over the top, not with everything at stake for this team at this time. So he was gone."This is not an indictment of David Blatt as a coach," Cavs GM David Griffin said at the time. "And it's not to say that Ty Lue is a better basketball coach. He's a better basketball coach for this team today."
Assistant coach Tyronn Lue took Blatt's place, and in came an immediate set of changes. Cleveland's lineup shuffled and its pace quickened. When the Finals arrived, Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Dellevadova -- key contributors to the Cavs' near miss in the 2015 Finals -- and 3-point shooter Channing Frye vanished from the rotation.
This isn't to say firing a head coach in-season will lead a college football team to a championship -- the two sports are diametric opposites in that regard -- but to highlight Cleveland didn't allow good results rob them of the promise of better results. "Over the course of my business career I have learned that sometimes the hardest thing to do is also the right thing to do," Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said in January.
2. It's never, ever over until it's over -- and even then it may not be over
If any NBA title was on ice four games into a Finals series, it was this one. The Warriors had 88 wins on the season, the most in NBA history. They had a 3-1 lead, a lead no team in Finals history had ever surrendered. They had a decided advantage over their opponent, with wins in eight of their last nine outings against Cleveland. And they took their foot off the gas.
"This is why you can't mess around," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said after the loss. "Not that we messed around, but this is why every game counts. Game 5 was really the key. That was the turning point of the whole series. We didn't play well enough to win. It was a tough game for us with the circumstances, and I thought they had two guys who played epic games, Kyrie and LeBron. And that changed the whole series. But with that said, I thought we were going to take care of business tonight at home, and we just couldn't get it done."
3. You can plan, practice, study and coach your tail off -- but it helps to have the best player in the world on your side
In his 292 minutes on the floor over these Finals, LeBron James compiled 208 points, 79 rebounds, 62 assists, 18 steals and 16 blocks. He is the only player in NBA history to lead any series in those five statistics -- and he did it in the biggest series of his life.
While LeBron went off, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson fell off. Thompson saw his 3-point percentage dip nearly 10 percent from the regular season, while Curry shot a disappointing (for him) 15-for-42 from deep over the final three games of the series and 0-for-4 down the stretch in Game 7.
We'll close an epic Finals with the best bit of advice in sports: if the best player in the world is on the floor, make sure he's on your side.