Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Beilein told his players they were playing “like a bunch of thugs” during a contentious film session Wednesday night.
Beilein says he instead meant to use the word “slugs.”
Beilein was addressing the team following a 115-113 home loss to the Detroit Pistons.
The Cavaliers players left the room initially stunned and were increasingly disturbed as they dispersed out of the meeting, league sources said.
Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman was alerted to the issue in the aftermath of the meeting and reached out to Beilein for clarification later Wednesday. Soon after, Beilein said he started to contact his players individually to clarify his words and meaning.
“I didn’t realize that I had said the word ‘thugs,’ but my staff told me later I did and so I must have said it,” Beilein told ESPN on Wednesday night.
“I meant to say slugs, as in slow-moving. We weren’t playing hard before, and now we were playing harder. I meant it as a compliment. That’s what I was trying to say. I’ve already talked to eight of my players tonight, and they are telling me that they understand.”