With the firing of head coach David Blatt, the Cleveland Cavaliers also announced the promotion of associate head coach Tyronn Lue. While there is debate amongst reports, by most indications, the 38-year-old Lue has signed a multi-year deal that will keep the former at the top spot for at least the next three seasons. While the systems and results of this decision will remain to be seen, we can only deal with what we know about the guy most known for being on the wrong side of a classic NBA image.
But who is the Cavaliers new head coach, you ask? We have you covered.
Before becoming the associate head coach of the Cavs in 2014 — and simultaneously becoming the highest paid assistant in the NBA — Lue was one of two finalists for the head coaching job in 2014. He would lose out to the eventual winner, David Blatt, but the team wanted to keep the long-time point guard as well. Griffin and company gave Lue so much money as an assistant because of this exact situation, with the idea that he would serve as a defensive coordinator of sorts, but one with the ability to step in and help a man who was in his first year in the NBA.
While the 38-year old may not have any prior head coaching experience, he had been an assistant with the Boston Celtics (2009-13) and Los Angeles Clippers (2013-14), before coming to the Cavaliers prior to the 2014-15 season. Shortly after retiring at the conclusion of the 2008-09 season, Lue became the Director of Basketball Development for the Celtics, but followed head coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles when he was traded to the Clippers prior to the 2013 season. Assisting under the likes of Rivers and Tom Thibodeau in Boston, Lue had learned from some of the best—both offensively and defensively. Because he learned under coaches like Rivers and Thibodeau, assisted with the Celtics and Clippers, and played under some of the best while suiting up in the league, Lue knows what coaching a championship-contending team is like.
The former player is still young, but the new head coach has a familiarity with the NBA and knows how to communicate with his players, something that has been evident with LeBron James and his Cavalier teammates. His experience and knowledge of the NBA game should resonate well with the team.
Multiple reports have stated that Lue has the trust of the Cavs players, especially James. Whether it was drawing up plays at times, studying film with players and correcting what each did wrong (and right), or the fact that he has played in the best basketball league in the world, the University of Nebraska product is respected by many around the NBA.
He did. He was drafted 23rd overall in the first round of the 1998 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets. Lue averaged 8.6 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game during an 11-year NBA career (554 games, 173 starts) while playing for seven teams, including four years in Atlanta and three in Los Angeles (Lakers)—wearing No. 10 throughout his entire career. With the Lakers, Lue won two championship rings under Phil Jackson, suiting up alongside Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and company. Many Cavs fans will likley remember Lue as a “Cav killer” for the way he overachieved when playing against Cleveland, increasing his career average to 9.4 points and 3.7 assists per game. One of Lue’s best games as a pro came in the 2006-07 season when he dropped 19 points and 11 assists in a nine-point win over the eventual Eastern Conference Champions.
Yeah, that wasn’t exactly a high a point of Lue’s career. In the 2001 NBA Finals, Iverson had Lue on the wing, where he would drive right and take one of his killer step-back jump shots. The shot attempt from the corner splashed through the net, and Lue had lost his balance attempting to close on the corn-rowed MVP. Making his way back up the court, Iverson stepped over Lue while he sat near the Lakers bench.
Iverson’s Philadelphia 76ers won that game. Lue’s Lakers won the series in five games.
Well, we don’t really know. As we mentioned, Lue was a defense-focused coach as an assistant. It does, however, appear that he can relate to the players better than his predecessor and that morale is the one area that continues to plague the team that sits at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
We’ll soon find out. When a team meeting was called today, some of the players assumed it was to announce a trade involving Kevin Love. Is there fire underneath this smoke?
WFNY’s Scott Sargent contributed to this story