Many believed when Tyronn Lue was appointed head coach of the Cavaliers after the departure of David Blatt, he fell into a dream scenario. A championship contending team with the best player in the world leading it. But despite the face value appeal, Lue has recently revealed how hard and challenging his journey to the eventual championship has been. Questioning himself on whether he was up to the task and expectation, needless to say, it hadn’t been a bed of roses, and a lot of sacrifice and determination had gone into the Cavs history making success.
Recently in his interview with The Jim Rome Show, surprisingly, Lue refused to sign a contract and initially wanted to decline the offer.
“I wanted to make sure I was the right person for the job,” Lue told The Jim Rome Show on Thursday. “Especially following behind Coach Blatt who just took our team to the NBA Finals when we had lost two key players in Kyrie [Irving] and Kevin Love, and then to come here and be first in the East when he was let go. So I had called Jerry West and Doc Rivers when they first offered the job, because I wasn’t going to take it, and they told me I had to take it, like it was the right thing to do, it was part of the business.
“For me, it was a tough situation, because I wanted to make sure it was something I could do and make sure I was happy where I was at. So it wasn’t about not signing, or verbally agreeing, like we never really came to the right terms, but when I did say I would take the job, the contract was not in place yet. So a lot of people say I was betting on myself. I was trying to make sure it was the right situation for me.”
In hindsight, thankfully he did take the job as Lue grew an incredible relationship and understanding with the Cavs players unlike anyone ever could. His desire to take on the challenge, as well as his championship experience as a player and assistant in Boston, gained instant respect from all Cavs players and coaching staff.
Many would see Lue’s job offer as a dream job, but Tyronn wasn’t sure he wanted to deal with the drama that came along with coaching a star riddled Cavs team that had a very real chance of winning a championship:
“Just the being seen, the scrutiny of it as far as our team, because anytime you have a team with LeBron James on it and then you add Kevin Love and you have Kyrie Irving, it’s going to be a media circus, and I don’t like that,” Lue said. “But I mean, I guess it comes with the territory. You know, I just want to coach, I just want to coach basketball and fly under the radar, but I know it’s not possible with this team.
“And I just wanted to make sure that it was something I wanted to do, because of all the ups and downs and if LeBron wore a headband tonight and he didn’t wear one last night, what’s wrong with him? You know, anything he does is under the microscope, so I had to make sure I wanted to be able to deal with this.”
After discussing his early hesitation in taking the job, Lue then went on to discuss coaching LeBron James in comparison to other superstars he’s coached and shared a locker room with in the past:
“I’ve been around a lot of superstars and Hall of Famers and him and KG [Kevin Garnett] are two of the best I’ve ever seen at listening and accepting coaching. Especially the caliber player they are. To listen and to accept coaching is big,” Lue said. “I always say LeBron said he will try anything once. He will never call you out or front you out in front of the team. If he has a problem, then he will talk to you behind closed doors. He never tries to flex his power, and one thing I believe is respect in everyone, from the janitor to the owner, and that’s what LeBron does. And a guy of his stature, it’s hard to find guys like that.”
As expected, the emotional side has been absolutely draining, and the height of these emotions came out when the Cavs won the NBA finals in June. Withstanding all the pressure and adversity, Lue spoke on the reaction of ending the championship drought in the city of Cleveland:
“[It’s] everywhere I go. I didn’t know that there was so many Cleveland fans or people from Cleveland. I didn’t know that. I was in LA a lot this summer, in Vegas, everywhere I go, ‘I’m from Cleveland, I’m from Cleveland’ and I’ve never heard that many people being from Cleveland,” Lue said.
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His most heart-warming and hard hitting moment came in Las Vegas after the Cavs championship victory.
“I was eating at Maestro’s at Crystals in Las Vegas and a guy and his son came up to me, and he just broke down and started crying and said, ‘You brought us a championship to Cleveland, and I’m just sad that my dad wasn’t here to see it after all these years.’
“It was really touching, just getting a feeling from the city and the state of Ohio of how much this means, and how much the city’s been wanting this for so long. And they’re great fans, they’ve been supporting, even when LeBron left, they still supported the team, and had a lot of fail outs, so this is a sports town. I mean, it’s just great to finally see something that they’ve been wanting for so long.”
After initially doubting himself and his ability to take on this job, there is no question Lue made the right decision. His ability to bring the team together and get the most out of his players even through adversity, was truly special. He became more than just a head coach, he became a friend, a mentor, a brother and a person they could trust.
His legacy will be etched into Cleveland history forever, as the first head coach to bring an NBA championship to this great city.