Early in his first season in Miami, LeBron James sent a message to Heat president Pat Riley that he should take over coaching duties from Erik Spoelstra, author Ian Thomsen claims in a new book. That story is among several contained in “The Soul of Basketball: The Epic Showdown Between LeBron, Kobe, Doc, and Dirk That Saved the NBA,” which Thomsen promoted in a recent appearance on Zach Lowe’s podcast (Hat tip to Dane Delgado of NBC Sports).
Spoelstra was in his third year as head coach when a rift reportedly developed between him and James during a 9-8 start. After a loss to the Mavericks, James dropped a subtle hint to Riley that he wanted him back behind the bench.
“[I] asked how things were progressing,” Riley recalls in the book. “They just said, ‘We’re not feeling it, or something like that.’ We talked about the typical things we have to do, have patience, all that stuff. And I remember LeBron looking at me and he said, ‘Don’t you ever get the itch?’
“And I said, ‘The itch for what?’ He said, ‘The itch to coach again.’ I said, ‘No I don’t have the itch.’
“He didn’t ask any more questions and I didn’t offer any more answers but I know what it meant and I always go back and wonder what he was thinking at that time. He walked out scratching at his leg like it was itching.”
Riley, of course, remained in the front office as Spoelstra led Miami to four straight NBA Finals and a pair of championships. James was involved in a similar scenario after returning to Cleveland, where he reportedly clashed with coach David Blatt, who was eventually replaced by Tyronn Lue.