The Cleveland Cavaliers are in their post-LeBron era. The team, which apparently did not have much of a contingency plan, is already in an uproar. After less than ten games, head coach Tyronn Lue, who led them to their only title in franchise history along with three NBA Finals appearances, has been fired. Lue, who coached the team to a 128-83 record, was reportedly fired over differences in philosophies.
Before the season, Lue and Cavs general manager Koby Altman discussed what the plan was going to be this season. Instead of doing the rebuild like many expected, what Altman wanted was for Lue to go with the younger players like Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson and others first and back them up with vets like Kyle Korver and JR Smith.
Lue had agreed to the plan, but in his heart of hearts, he wanted the vets to lead the way. After a rough start, Lue could not help himself, and he started to make that change back to the vets he wanted to play from the beginning. As a result of that, he went against the plan and that got him let go. The firing happened quickly, but should Lue have ever been in a position to get fired in the first place?
The Cavs were in rebuilding mode this year whether they wanted to admit it or not. The challenge for Lue was going to be to find wins where he could while trying to find out what kind of team he had. If anyone has watched Lue coach over the last three seasons, you would know that he tends to favor the veteran players.
Just to give you an example, Cedi Osman played well for the time he was on the court last season, but he could not break the rotation permanently because he was behind vets like Jeff Green and Lue trusted them more. He got the results he wanted because he won, but he never really developed the youngsters the team traded for and integrated them doing what they did best.
Going into this season, he was going to struggle to do what was asked of him because he simply trusted the vets more. So to ask him to do something against his nature was not exactly the smartest thing to do for the Cavaliers organization.
Along with asking Lue to go against his nature, the team also asked him go against what he was with his coaching style. With the LeBron James-led teams he had over his first three seasons, all he had to do is make simple changes to the lineups or rotations and let the vets work it out mostly. While he did have to make some adjustments, he had the best player in the world and having LeBron James makes things easier for any team.
Going into this season, there was no LeBron James to cover up for those coaching adjustments and teaching moments. Lue spoke of the challenge of coaching a team and forming a team, but the reality is he has never really had to teach much to any players in the head coach capacity.
Having to mold a team into his form isn’t something he has ever had to do. He may have wanted the challenge, but he did not want to take on the challenge of molding the young players the way the organization wanted him to.
Lue’s run may have been short in Cleveland, but he will get credit for being at the helm of the most successful run in Cleveland Cavaliers basketball history. He also unfortunately will be looked at like most coaches that have coached LeBron James as a figurehead who was only the coach in title.
However he is viewed, the one thing that is true is he should have been let go once LeBron decided to leave for Los Angeles. If they wanted someone to teach and lead a group of younger players with vets in the background, he just wasn’t the right coach for that sort of plan. Maybe with him out of the way, the Cavs will go with a coach that no one expects, kind of like they did when they hired David Blatt.
As for Lue, he doesn’t really have to rush to find another head coaching job, he has $15 million to relax with.