Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cavaliers, has bent over backwards to appease his preening star, who has repaid Gilbert by bending him over in public. Plus: Will Tom Izzo coach the Cavs?
The Cavs held a press conference this week to, among other things, let the world know that LeBron James is not — repeat: NOT — involved in the team's hunt for a head coach, just as he was not involved in the departures of Mike Brown and Danny Ferry from the team's employ.
"Nor," added the team's owner Dan Gilbert, "has he been involved heavily in past major trades." Furthermore, sayeth Gilbert, "The concept that this franchise has been handed to a player who is running it and making the decisions is completely false. ... (T)he truth is the truth."
I actually believe him. But I also believe that LeBron's demeanor during the Celtics series, on and off the court, said all that needed saying about James's disdain for his coach, for his teammates, and for losing the most crucial games of his career year after year after year. Dan Gilbert may not have a hotline to LeCell, but no doubt he got the message loud and clear.
In every way that matters, Dan Gilbert is a Cleveland fan's dream owner come true. He believes that profit is based on success, and so he has spent lavishly in pursuit of victory — without ever being a Jerry Jones/Mark Cuban/Steinbrenner emperor-jerk. He gives the people he hires room and time to learn from their mistakes, keeps a low profile, and has a real emotional bond with the town and its long-starved fans.
Gilbert also has been especially sensitive to LeBron's hopes, fears, and dreams. Last July, Gilbert brought James along to the Allen & Co. billionaire's ball in Sun Valley, Idaho — where, according to Gilbert, moguls elbowed Warren Buffett and Bill Gates for some face time with Bron. Gilbert also peddled a 15 percent slice of the franchise to a group of Chinese investors — a move meant partly to help James reach global-icon status.
Beyond that, Gilbert has created a culture where — for better and for worse — James rules. To serve the King, Gilbert built a practice facility halfway to Akron, gave a phantom security job to Bron's cousin/personal assistant — essentially, the guy is Head of Handshakes — and employs a media relations staff whose primary purpose seems to be to shield LeBron and Gloria James, his freewheeling mom, from anything resembling scrutiny.
In short, Gilbert has done everything possible to convince James that Cleveland is the best possible place for him to ply his trade. In return, he's gotten this: LeBron's dog-and-pony free-agent tour and media lap dance. If LeBron decides he'd rather toil in New York City for the Dolans or in Chicago for El Reinsdorfo, that'll say all that needs saying about his sense of loyalty and his intelligence.
And as for Izzo?
It's 50-50 at this point: 50-50 that Tom Izzo leaves Michigan State — Dan Gilbert's alma mater — to coach the Cavs, and 20-80 that Izzo can translate collegiate success into NBA glory, a trail of tears blazed over many years by men whose names — Vitale, Carlesimo, Pitino, Calipari, and Tarkanian among them — will never be forgotten, and for all the wrong reasons.
Scott Raab is a graduate of Cleveland State University and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has been a Writer at Large for Esquire magazine since 1997. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and son.
More Stories You Might Like from Esquire.com