BY GABE KAMINSKY
It’s amazing how one player can change a franchise.
It was an ironic and, undeniably, truthful meme that informed me of the Cavaliers inevitable firing of four-year head coach Tyronn Lue:
Tyronn Lue Record: As Head Coach, 0-6. As An Assistant Coach, 120-89.
And it couldn’t be more accurate.
The only legitimate reason Lue found success in Cleveland was because of one man. LeBron James. Upon David Blatt’s much-required firing, the return of James to Cleveland, and the unexpected hiring of the first time coach Lue in 2015. it was apparent to everyone that any moderate success attained in Cleveland would be because of James. And they did have success. The Cavaliers made it to three straight NBA finals, won in 2016, and maintained a winning percentage of over .600.
Without James and Irving, it is pretty clear that the Cavs management team had zero confidence in Lue. General manager Koby Altman stated in a press briefing last Monday after the firing that “it didn’t come together the way we envisioned. And just we didn’t think Coach Lue was the right fit for this group.”
Altman may be completely accurate in his early realization of Lue’s incompetence with a new set of guys. One thing the management and Lue did not see eye-to-eye on was the balance between veteran and younger players’ minutes. Owner Dan Gilbert reportedly told Tyronn to provide rookie Collin Sexton more minutes, as he was only averaging 23.5 minutes per game. Additionally, younger talent like Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, and Cedi Osman were supposed to be given more time: but Lue disregarded Altman and gave veterans Korver and JR Smith more minutes early on.
On November 1, JR Smith requested a trade because of his anger and dissatisfaction with the firing. Smith even reportedly told Lue that he didn’t “want to put him in a position where he had to lose his job,” in which Lue responded, “The hell with it.”
Clearly, the ramifications of playing veterans over potential talent was not a worry to him; but what is even more clear is that Lue was keenly aware of the fact that losing LeBron James would not end well for him anyway. Could they have given the three-time championship appearing coach more time to shift his mindset? Sure, but why not start fresh with a new team?
Or at least that this was the obvious mantra of the Cavaliers organization with the departure of the best player in the league.
As of now, assistant coach Larry Drew will fill in as interim coach. While still in negotiation—with the minor possibility of an extension—the Cavaliers will more than likely be shopping around for a new face of their team. In the wake of a rough 1-8 start to Cleveland’s inaugural season without LeBron, the organization will look to find someone who shares their vision of solidifying confidence in guys like Collin Sexton and Sam Dekker, while keeping Kevin Love at the focal point. Thus far, the Cavaliers are shooting below .500 and an abysmal .316 from three. Possible candidates for the job could very well include Frank Vogel, Kenny Smith, Monty Williams, or Ime Udoka.