Cavs coach Beilein says team will get past 'thugs' gaffe

2 min

Los Angeles (AFP)

Cleveland coach John Beilein Thursday said he thinks his players still back him after an embarrassing gaffe in which he said they were no longer playing "like a bunch of thugs" when he meant to say "slugs."

Beilein speaking Thursday morning in Detroit as the team prepared for the night's NBA game against the Pistons, said he had apologized to players individually and collectively.

He said he hadn't even realized he had used the racially insensitive label "thug" to his mostly African-American squad until it was pointed out to him after the conclusion of a video review session on Wednesday.

"In a film session, I used a word that when I meant to say 'slug,' 'thug' came out," said Beilein, who said he was actually trying to point out improvements to what had been stretches of slow, sloppy play this season.

"It was brought to my attention a couple of hours later. Called all the players afterwards, explained the situation. Met about it today, I apologized about it today as well.

"I never intended, and I think the players understand that now, but it's something I have to learn from and just enunciate better and be clearer with what my intentions were.

"So, they all know it, they understand it. It's unfortunate, we'll get this behind us without question."

In addition to speaking with players, Beilein said he had talked "quite a bit" with general manager Koby Altman.

Cavs veteran Kevin Love, whose own frustrations with the 10-27 team have boiled over in public displays of temper in recent days, said players where initially shocked at Beilein's use of the word "thug," but accepted that the coach misspoke.

Cleveland forward Larry Nance said he appreciated the fact that Beilein took responsibility.

"This is all about taking accountability," Nance said. "Had he run from it, it would be one thing. But he apologized to us individually, apologized to us as a team today.

"We all make mistakes," Nance said. "So, yeah, we'll be all right."

Love said he didn't expect the issue to spell the end for Beilein's tenure in Cleveland.

The Cavs hired the veteran collegiate coach in May. He replaced Larry Drew, who took over the job when Tyronn Lue was sacked six games into the 2018-19 season -- the Cavs' first since superstar LeBron James departed via free agency for the Los Angeles Lakers.