Since his open letter to Cavs fans, followed by a scathing telephone interview with the AP, Dan Gilbert has been relatively quiet. Some have wondered if Gilbert would back down from his emotional comments, words that included terms like 'quitter' and 'coward'. Gilbert did finally speak again, today, doing an interview with Ian Thomson of Sports Illustrated. You can read the entire article here, but below are some of Gilbert's key thoughts now that the entire LeBron James-episode has had a chance to sink in.
Regarding his guarantee of a championship before LeBron, Gilbert backtracked a bit, but not much.
I know I made that crazy promise, but it was more of a rallying cry to get people to rally around that message. I don't think their experiment is going to work. But that's just me. I just don't see Dwyane Wade and LeBron James gelling together on the court.'
Regarding the thought within the media that his comments might keep a future franchise star from coming to Cleveland, Gilbert was frank.
People know what the truth is, because I say it or because I don't say it, people know what it is. All players are not alike. There are players who understand what it's all about. Could there be a few guys who don't want to come, like Chris Bosh? Probably. We're looking for guys who are tough and want to compete. I absolutely believe we can bring a championship to Cleveland, and that will be a very happy day and a day of redemption.
Regarding rumors that the Cavaliers allowed James and his family/friends to essentially do what they wanted, Gilbert said the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Family members were getting a couple of suite passes, it was that kind of thing -- but we did those things for all of the players. He really never did ask and go above and beyond for material things. We were 'enabling' -- not on that stuff -- but probably just on how he conducted himself and the respect level.
I wish I'd brought the hammer out on that stuff earlier. Returning people's text messages -- whether it was the p.r. people or my own. Overall, he showed up to the key things, he was never late to practice. But in certain meetings he was kind of like the kid in the classroom looking at his BlackBerry.
As Gilbert mentioned, he wished he had 'dropped the hammer' on some of the behavior Gilbert now feels was a lack of respect. That is where Jesse Jackson's idiotic comments are off the mark. Gilbert treated James the way he treats all of his employees, both with the Cavs and over at Quicken Loans. There is a reason Gilbert's entities are always among the Top 100 Places To Work, Gilbert is a damn good boss. As GIlbert says, he didn't realize that in the NBA you need to establish firm guidelines at times, else fall victim to something like this.
I asked [Bulls owner] Jerry Reinsdorf, 'Did certain things happen with Michael [Jordan]? Did he not return your calls?' " Gilbert said. "He said, 'No, that would never happen, never.' I did hear this was very unusual,'' Gilbert said of his inability to communicate with James.
Of course, Gilbert also talked about the coaching search, and LeBron's refusal to speak to Tom Izzo.
You asked about LeBron and what it would take for him to get to that [championship] level -- I think it has to come from the inside," Gilbert said. "[Izzo] is one of these guys who is extremely passionate and emotional, and I think that's what LeBron needs. Mike Brown [who was recently fired as coach], as great as he was, he wasn't going to have that one-on-one relationship like Phil [Jackson] had with Jordan. [Izzo] had that right stuff without having the NBA experience, and so we probably would have wanted to bring him some extremely experienced assistants.
But then LeBron wouldn't even talk to [Izzo]. Wouldn't even talk to him. Those are the things we let him get away with.
Through it all, Gilbert believed that LeBron was staying, and was "pretty shocked" when LeBron announced he was leaving for Miami.
When [LeBron and his advisers] announced they were going to do [the team presentations] in Cleveland and not go on their tour, for us that was another sign that this guy and these guys can't muster enough energy to go on the road -- how is he going to move? Going through the process, we felt really good. We felt our meeting went good, and we had another meeting at his house 10 days or two weeks before that.
"The last few days when it got set up in Connecticut [to broadcast his announcement], we couldn't figure it out. It was just very bizarre. Why is he going to the Boys & Girls Club in Greenwich, Conn.? We started thinking to ourselves, It doesn't make sense. We can't think he's going to go on national TV and build it up and humiliate and disgrace Cleveland, Ohio, by saying he's leaving. The only way he comes out of this positive is if he announces he's staying, because otherwise he's going to destroy himself. That was our thought process.
"We knew it was more than a 50-70 percent chance he was going to stay.
While Gilbert's emotions have clearly come down, you can still sense the shock and disbelief in his voice. Not in the way the idiot Jesse Jackson described, but in the sense of a man that thought he was in a long-term partnership with a player to bring a dynasty to Cleveland. Right or wrong, Dan Gilbert was hurt by the events of last Thursday night, like many of us were. He only said what many of us were thinking.