When the Los Angeles Clippers announced the hiring of new head coach Tyronn Lue, Lawrence Frank, the team’s president of basketball operations made one prudent point about their new head coach. He is a proven winner and a champion.
“Ty has been where we want to go. He is a championship head coach with an extraordinary feel for the game and the people who play it,” Frank said.
“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,” Frank added. “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.”
This was a sentiment echoed by owner Steve Ballmer, who said the team’s best option at head coach was in front of them this entire time.
“While there were a lot of great head coaches, we had to get the best of the best, and the best of the best was Ty Lue,” Ballmer said.
As an assistant coach under Doc Rivers for the Clippers last season, Lue now takes the reins and has the challenge of guiding another star-studded team to the finals. After spending three seasons as head coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Lue lead Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and company to the team’s first-ever championship in 52 years.
Los Angeles is hoping the head coach can replicate this magic and end the organization’s own playoff curse of over 50 years, which hangs heavier after the team blew a 3-1 series lead against the Denver Nuggets last season and a chance at the team’s first-ever west finals appearance.
“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 Mr. Ballmer and Lawrence, 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.”
Now with his own star duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, Lue has the expectations of helping the team take that next step that the organization has so badly been waiting for.
“I think looking at the team we need to play faster and at a better pace,” Lue said. “Getting easy baskets is one thing, but I think sharing the basketball and playing through our best players, as well as making the other players on our team better is very important.”
With over 11 seasons under his belt as a player, which included being a part of two championship victories with the Los Angeles Lakers, Lue’s experience both as a player and coach now spans over 20 years in the league.
Prior to getting into the coaching side of the game, Lue had a successful career as a player after being drafted 23rd overall in the first round of the 1998 draft by the Denver Nuggets. Coming out of the University of Nebraska, Lue was dealt in a draft day trade that landed him with the Lakers and sent Nick Van Exel to the Nuggets.
Lue went on to play with seven different organizations throughout his career, with his final year coming in the 2008-2009 season at the age of 31 with the Orlando Magic. Lue is infamously remembered for being stepped over by Allen Iverson in overtime of game one of the 2001 NBA Finals.
“The step over definitely made me famous. The thing with Allen Iverson is, he made me,” Lue said during an interview with The Undefeated in 2016.
Oddly enough, Lue admits that if the Philadelphia 76ers had not made the NBA Finals that year, his career may have been over before it even began. Despite this moment happening early on in his career, Lue picked himself up and has used instants like those to learn and grow within the league.
Coincidentally, the first coaching position that Lue earned was with the Boston Celtics in 2011 where he was an assistant under Rivers, now the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, for two seasons.
“Doc has been my mentor since I’ve been in the league and coaching, and he gave me my first opportunity, so without Doc, I wouldn’t be in this position today,” Lue said.
Lue briefly joined the Clippers coaching staff in 2013 before going to Cleveland to become the assistant head coach in 2014.
That is where Lue then earned his first head coaching position midway during the 2015-2016 season when at the time the first-place Cavaliers made the surprise decision of firing head coach David Blatt. Lue went on to become one of the few rookie head coaches to lead his team to a championship appearance and victory that season.
During his time in Cleveland, the head coach was able to rack up a 128-83 regular season record as well as going 41-20 in the playoffs, which included three straight finals appearances against the Golden State Warriors. Now the challenge becomes in replicating this success in Los Angeles, where the team across the hall owns the rafters and is the biggest obstacle out west for the Clippers.
Though he’s running an entirely different system with the Clippers now that he’s running the show, the tips he learned from being under Rivers should not be understated and is something that has benefitted him everywhere he’s been, Lue said.
“Well, we have some things,” Lue said on the first day of the team’s abbreviated training camp in December. “I’ve learned from Doc my whole career, from Boston and coming to the Clippers the first chance I got. Everything I did was Doc Rivers-driven. But when I took over in Cleveland I saw that certain things I did with Doc in Boston or with the Clippers, didn’t necessarily translate to our team in Cleveland.”
Nearing the halfway mark of the season, the start of Lue’s tenure has been a success thus far as the team is off to a 21-9-start. The highlights include the team rolling on a seven-game win streak earlier in the season. The low point is trying to keep Leonard and George healthy enough to stay in the lineup. Both stars have battled a slew of maladies that have sidelined them for games.
As the season progresses and the team starts to play as a cohesive unit, the end goal will remain the same, a championship run. The only question remaining to be answered is whether or not Lue is the man to lead them to the promised land.
Featured image: Los Angeles Clippers coach Tyronn Lue barks out instructions to his players in a home game against the Utah Jazz on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline