It’s a done deal. The Los Angeles Clippers have their new head basketball coach. And they didn’t have to look too far to get him. Tyronn Lue has a championship pedigree. It was Lue who coached the LeBron James-led Cavaliers to come-from-behind a 3-1 deficit to the powerful Golden State Warriors to win the NBA title in 2016.
Lue, who was up for the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching position just a year ago, is the next man up for the Clippers. Lue sat under Doc Rivers as an assistant coach and was in the mix as a candidate for other head coaching vacancies around the league. Once Rivers and the Clippers mutually parted ways after seven seasons, the team began an immediate search for their next coach.
Fortunately for the Clippers Lue, a highly respected basketball mind, was already within reach. A day before he was officially introduced as the Clippers head coach, the team released a statement on their hiring of Lue.
“Ty has been where we want to go,” Clippers President of Basketball Operations and NBA Executive of the Year Lawrence Frank said. “He is a championship head coach with an extraordinary feel for the game and the people who play it. He’s one of the great minds in our league, and he’s able to impart his vision to others because he connects with everybody he meets. We conducted a thorough search and spoke with fantastic candidates. We found that the best choice for our team was already in our building. As head coach, Ty will put a unique imprint on the organization and drive us to new heights.”
The Clippers did not release details of Lue’s contract, but one thing is for sure and that is he will be pacing the sidelines as the team’s new leading man. Lue, 43, brings a wealth of coaching experience and championship DNA with him to Los Angeles from his time in Cleveland when we served as the Cavaliers head coach from 2016-2019, most notably coaching superstars like James and Kyrie Irving to three straight NBA Finals appearances and the one NBA championship.
During his tenure in Cleveland as head coach, Lue went 128-83 overall (.607 win percentage) and 41-20 in the playoffs. He was fired after an 0-6 start to the 2018-19 season following the departure of James.
Lue’s deep history in coaching superstars under pressure along with the familiarity of the current Clippers roster could have been contributing factors to his appointment. Rivers gave Lue his start as an assistant coach in Boston in 2011 and then with the Clippers in 2013 before Lue left for the Cavs. Rivers brought Lue back after his time in Cleveland ran out.
Things might have turned out differently for Lue, Rivers and the Clippers had the team not blown a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets in the second round of this year’s NBA playoffs. Denver came back to win three straight games to capture the series, 4-3. As a result of that disappointing finish, Rivers is gone and is now the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, inking a reported five-year deal with the Eastern Conference ballclub.
In the Clippers’ first season with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George playing together, the team went 49-23 in the regular season — the fourth-best record in franchise history. Lue will now face the task of leading the franchise to its first Western Conference final or NBA Final appearance and will have to do so in the final year of the Leonard and George duo being together. Both players can become unrestricted free agents in 2021.
“The pieces we need are in place – committed ownership, smart management and elite talent, on and off the court, in the NBA’s best market,” Lue said. “My familiarity with the organization, particularly [Steve] Ballmer and Lawrence [Frank], confirmed this is where I want to be. We have work to do to become champions, but we have the motivation, the tools and the support to get there. I’m excited to get started.”
Reports have come and suggested that former NBA head coach Larry Drew and ex-league star Chauncey Billups are expected to join Lue’s coaching staff as assistant coaches for the Clippers. Drew coached the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks before succeeding Lue in Cleveland as the interim head coach but parted ways with the Cavaliers after one season. Billups, like Lue, was a smart player with good communication skills.
This will be Lue’s first head coaching opportunity in a while. Besides working as an assistant coach under Rivers, Lue worked as an analyst on NBA Countdown and ESPN for five years. Lue was nearly hired to become the Lakers’ next coach before the 2019-20 season, but negotiations broke down over financial terms of the contract and disagreements about his coaching staff.
The Clippers’ hiring of Lue adds more juice to the Lakers-Clippers rivalry. Lue won two championships with the Lakers (2000, 2001) during his 11-year NBA career. The NBA has not determined a start date for the upcoming season, but commissioner Adam Silver said that the next season could start in December but will likely not start until 2021.
Editor’s note: Feature image appears courtesy of the Los Angeles Clippers