Miami Heat president Pat Riley dismissed rumors Thursday that LeBron James asked him to fire head coach Erik Spoelstra during his time with the team.
Riley spoke to reporters and took a vehement stance on the matter, which was raised after reports surfaced from overseas that Heat part-owner Raanan Katz said James played a big role in David Blatt’s firing from the Cavaliers last week. Katz also said James had worked to get Spoelstra fired as Heat head coach while a member of the team from 2010–14.
Katz has since backed off on his stance and told media members that his comments, made during an Israeli radio interview, were misinterpreted and out of context.
Riley was firm in stating James never told him he wanted Spoelstra out.
“Not from him to me, ever,” Riley said of James. “So a lot of stuff is following him out the door. Whether it’s right or wrong, it’s just the nature of it. But as far as that goes, no, he never, ever walked in and said anything.”
James’s relationship with Spoelstra was occasionally tumultuous during his time with the Heat, particularly early on, but Miami won two championships behind the player-coach duo and went to four consecutive Finals before James departed for Cleveland during the 2014 off-season.
Blatt was fired last week after going 83–40 as Cavaliers head coach and leading the team to the NBA Finals last season. He was replaced by Tyronn Lue, who is a personal friend of James, leading to speculation the superstar’s camp played a role in the front office’s decision. General manager David Griffin firmly denied consulting with James prior to firing Blatt.
- Jeremy Woo