Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson share blame in John Beilein's resignation

Beilein stepped down on Wednesday

James Rapien
February 20, 2020 - 11:03 pm

CLEVELAND, OH — Kevin Love stood in front of dozens of media members after Wednesday night’s practice. The 5-time All-Star had nothing but praise for his former head coach.

John Beilein resigned on Wednesday. The 67-year-old gave an emotional goodbye to players and staff before the news was officially announced. 

“I respect the hell out of him,” Love said after Wednesday's practice. “It took a real man to do that today. Everybody you talk to will say they respected the hell out of him.”

Beilein had his faults. He should look in the mirror when thinking about his 54-game tenure with the Cavs.

There are plenty of things Beilein should’ve done differently, but he isn’t the only person that deserves blame.

Love said all of the right things on Wednesday. That was the easy part. It wasn't hard to praise Beilein after he was gone. 

His first answer was 565 words and lasted nearly four minutes. It was nice of him to acknowledge Beilein’s goodbye to the team and say how much it meant, but it’s easy to say “good game” and praise someone when you win. Love won. His season filled with tantrums, reports of his unhappiness and bad leadership put the Cavs and Beilein in this position.

Love never welcomed the 67-year-old head coach. He’s an NBA Champion, an All-Star and arguably the most talented player on the Cavs roster. Love could’ve helped set the tone for the team. Instead, he acted like an immature child. He may have said the right things publicly, but actions spoke much louder than his words.

Love could’ve embraced the fundamentals that Beilein stressed in practice. He could’ve encouraged the youngsters on the team to get on board with long film sessions.

Tristan Thompson is another veteran that could’ve done more to help Beilein establish a culure in Cleveland. Young players like Darius Garland and Collin Sexton would’ve been more receptive to Beilein’s style if Thompson backed him from the start.

More Drama

Beilein referred to Cavaliers players as ‘thugs’ during a film session in January. He said the players were no longer playing “like a bunch of thugs."

Beilein apologized that night and told players he meant to say “slugs,” meaning slow moving. He said he meant it as a compliment for how hard they were playing.  

The error rubbed players the wrong way and some didn't buy his explanation. 

The Athletic reported earlier this week that Cavaliers players spent the ensuing weeks reminding Beilein of his mistake by routinely playing songs that used the word "thug" or "thugs" around Beilein.

Bone Thugz-n-Harmony’s “Thuggish Ruggish Bone," Tupac’s “Thugz Mansion” and Trick Daddy's "I'm a Thug” were just three of the songs mentioned in the report.

Instead of letting the “thug” controversy split the players from their coach, the team could’ve turned it into a positive. Team leaders like Love and Thompson had the power to stop any music that mocked Beilein. They could’ve defended their head coach and rallied around him. 

Love and Thompson didn’t throw him a life raft. They knew Beilein was drowning. They knew he was overwhelmed and struggling, as the losses mounted.

Sexton and Garland said the right things publicly, but they're young and impressionable. 

Thompson defended his head coach publicly in December, but he could’ve done a lot more to help the first-year NBA coach.

That’s the problem with this entire situation. Beilein had his faults and should’ve been more prepared to lead the Cavaliers. Veteran players on the team could’ve backed their head coach early and often during the season. 

Love was too busy whining about being apart of a rebuilding team. He let anyone and everyone in the league know that he was unhappy and wanted to be traded. Thompson was focused on his own numbers in a contract year. He is a hard worker, but he could've done more to help build camaraderie and culture in the locker room. 

General manager Koby Altman should shoulder some of the blame for keeping Love and Thompson around a young team. Neither player is instrumental in the future of the organization. Love has done more harm than good in the locker room this year. Thompson works hard and hasn't been a problem, but he also wasn't part of the solution. 

That’s the problem with this situation. No one stepped up and backed Beilein. Not one player defended his long film sessions or his obsession with basic fundamentals.

The 14-40 Cavs should've embraced fundamentals. This team has went 33-103 over the past two season. They should've been open to criticism in hopes of turning around a sinking ship. 

Instead, they pushed back on basic drills and Beilein's long film sessions. That starts with team leaders like Love and Thompson. They could've set the tone from the start. The worst team in the Eastern Conference was too good to work on the basics.

Beilein's “old school” approach may not have worked, but it would've had a real chance if team leaders would've done their part. The players tuned out Beilein and that starts at the top with Love and Thompson. Disgruntled veterans are poison on a young team.

Love didn’t get suspended after he threw a temper tantrum on the sideline and asked Beilein to sub him out in a game against the Raptors in December. A few days later he got into an argument with Altman after the team fined him $1,000 for his antics.

Beilein did Love a favor by never criticizing him publicly, even though the former All-Star acted like a child.

The Cavs vets failed Beilein this season. Love admitted he could’ve been better.

“I’ve been a sh--head at some points in the season and let the losing get the best of me,” he said Wednesday.

It was easy for Love to admit his faults after Beilein resigned. A true leader would’ve addressed the disjointed locker room months ago.

Thompson chose not to reflect on Beilein’s time with the Cavs on Thursday.

“I’m not getting into that,” Thompson said when asked what went wrong during the 54-game tenure. “You can go ask some other guys that — Koby Altman or some other guys. They might give you a better answer.”

Altman released a statement, but hasn’t talked with the media since Beilein resigned.

Maybe Love and Thompson should call Chris Paul and ask him how to lead a young team. The future Hall of Famer embraced playing for Billy Donovan and the Thunder this season. Oklahoma City is in position to make the playoffs in the tough Western Conference. 

Paul could've felt sorry for himself after the Rockets traded him to a non-contender at this stage of his career. He chose not to go down that path. Paul embraced his role on the Thunder and is having a great season. 

The Cavaliers organization is a disaster. Beilein should’ve had a backup plan if players weren’t receptive to his coaching style, but he isn’t the only reason this experiment was a failure. Veterans like Love and Thompson failed him.

Altman failed. He should've traded both Love and Thompson at the deadline. The Cavaliers' general manager still has dreams of getting something of value for Love in a trade. It's getting harder and harder to see that scenario coming to fruition. 

How long will it take the Cavaliers to become relevant without LeBron James? Beilein resigning Wednesday shows how far away they are from building a sustainable, winning culture. They've had four head coaches in the last 16 months. 

Beilein failed in Cleveland. He wasn't alone.