When news broke that a Cleveland head coach was fired, many thought it would have to be Browns head coach Hue Jackson.
While that was the case just 24 hours later, Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue was shown the door first. Lue was just six games into his third full season as head coach, and this announcement came as a bit of a surprise.
General manager Koby Altman stated that this coaching change was a “complex situation” and also said he did not think Lue was the right man for the job with the roster the Cavaliers had this put together this season.
What Altman may mean by this is that Lue is more suited to coach a team like the ones Cleveland had the past four years. A championship team that is full of veterans that needs the guidance of a basketball mind like Lue.
Lue took over as the head coach in early 2016, replacing David Blatt, who had led the Cavaliers to a 30-11 record in his second year as coach. However a chance was made as then-GM David Griffin said the team lacked direction and the fit “was an issue” between coach and players. Most notably LeBron James.
James would often go to Lue when discussing strategy, as he desired to be led by a coach who was a former player. Before Blatt was ultimately picked as the head coach, Lue was in the running, and became the highest paid assistant coach when he joined Blatt on the Cavaliers bench.
David Blatt: First head coach to be fired when his team had best record in conference since conferences began (1970-71)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 23, 2016
The difference when Lue took over was quite apparent, as the team became re-energized and played with a new sense of purpose. In his 41 games as coach that regular season, Lue managed to go 27-14 and led the Cavaliers to the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
After getting through the Eastern Conference bracket with little trouble, the Cavaliers were matched up with the 73-9 Golden State Warriors.
As we all know, the Cavaliers came back from down 3-1 to win the series in a dramatic seventh and final game. The image of Tyronn Lue sitting on the bench, sobbing, is one of the most impactful photos from that entire championship run.
But as Lue’s tenure rolled along, questions slowly began to arise about Lue and whether he was actually responsible for the Cavaliers success.
That is the price you pay when arguably the greatest player of all-time plays for you. When the team succeeds it is all because of LeBron and company. When the team loses, it is because the head coach did not push the right buttons during the game.
All throughout last season, the microscope was fixated on Lue, as the team was without their second-best player Kyrie Irving and were struggling to gel overall.
As the season rolled along, fans became less patient with Lue, as his constant mix-matching of lineups was often times not working or yielded mixed results.
Despite all of the chaos that surrounded not only Lue, but also the entire Cavaliers team, the Wine & Gold finished with 50 wins and another trip to the playoffs.
Those questioning Lue were not silent though as Cleveland struggled with the Indiana Pacers and won a tightly contested series in seven games. Though Lue’s decisions were questioned that entire series, his call to go with the five remaining players from the Cavaliers title team in 2016 for Game 7 against Indiana paid off.
Cleveland once again found themselves in a Game 7 in the Conference Finals against an upstart Boston team who was on their home floor. Tyronn Lue again pushed the right buttons that night and rode his veteran players to victory that night.
But the play that will haunt Cleveland fans is the play toward the end of Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals when J.R. Smith forgot they had a timeout. Many (unfairly) blamed Lue for that miscue, and after the Warriors dispatched of the Cavaliers in four games, the fans were out in droves, all calling for Lue to be shown the door.
Lue was kept around as coach, but LeBron James decided to take his talents to the West Coast and the pressures on Lue suddenly were lessened. Cleveland wanted to start out the season with a youth movement, while Lue rode his veterans, largely becuase he wanted to win games and felt the veterans would give them the best chance to do that.
However, the front office wanted to see rookie draft choice Collin Sexton see the floor more, and also wanted Cedi Osman to see more action alongside the veterans. Lue unwillingness to budge on that issue may have been the straw that broke the camels back.
The Cavaliers have fired head coach Tyronn Lue, and owner Dan Gilbert has now fired the 3 most successful head coaches in Cavaliers history.
Lue also has the 2nd-most playoff wins (41) in franchise history behind Mike Brown (42). pic.twitter.com/aamqpuWfQb
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 28, 2018
Now Larry Drew is the acting head coach for the Wine & Gold, but he won’t be the main man for Cleveland. The Cavaliers will need to find a coach that is willing to give the young players a chance, even though that may not result in a lot wins, it will build for the future.
Even though the message to the fans at the start of the season was that the Cavaliers were still thinking playoffs, it may be time to amend that state of mind. But this team and these fans in Cleveland need to appreciate what Tyronn Lue did here with the Cavaliers.
Lue will likely be the scapegoat or the man to blame for many fans, but he is the man who helped lead the Cavaliers to their first and only title. Hopefully over time his accomplishments with this organization will be properly recognized.
Going from four straight NBA Finals to bottom of the league is not fun for anyone in the organization, but right now it is all about the future. The next coach of the Cavaliers will have his hands full, but hopefully he will be the man to get this ship back on course and get this franchise back to where they expect to be.
Only time will tell.