In his first interview since joining the Clippers as an assistant coach this offseason, Tyronn Lue revealed that he wishes he were still coaching in Cleveland.
The former Cavaliers coach, who was the head coach for the franchise's lone NBA championship in 2016, was fired six games into the 2018-19 season. The team was on a substantially different trajectory than Lue's prior three seasons, having lost all six contests after four straight NBA Finals appearances, but Lue was still surprised to go.
Lue told Joe Vardon of The Athletic that he thought winning a title would earn him some breathing room through the rebuilding years.
Instead, the Cavaliers parted ways with their most successful coach in franchise history, even though Lue was still owed $19 million over the final three years of his contract.
During the offseason, Lue attempted to rejoin the ranks of head coaches, interviewing for the top job with the Los Angeles Lakers. When that didn't work out, he re-joined his former boss and good friend Doc Rivers with the Clippers.
Lue served as an assistant to Rivers for two seasons in Boston and then moved with him to Los Angeles for one year in 2013. Their relationship remained strong when Lue took the associate head coaching job with the Cavaliers. When the time came for Lue to be promoted to head coach, he consulted with Rivers first (from The Athletic):
It’s widely known that Lue called Rivers, who told him to take the job. Lue also called Jerry West, who he says screamed into the phone, “Are you f***ing crazy?” when Lue told him he was thinking of turning it down.
Lue was ultimately fired in 2018. On that day, his former mentor Rivers passionately advocated for the job Lue had done in Cleveland.
"We talked for a long time, he’s really disappointed, but he has a lot to be proud of. He did a heck of a job in extreme circumstances, and I probably am no prouder of anybody that’s played for me and been a coach under me than Ty Lue," Rivers said. "So it makes you so angry when you see stuff like that, but there’s nothing you can do about it and I thought he handled it the right way. He’s better than me, he handled it with just amazing class, thanked everybody."
This season, Lue has stayed in the background like most assistant coaches. Rex Kalamian handles the halftime interviews, and Rivers does the rest of the media availability. After years of having the ultimate spotlight as LeBron James' head coach, Lue has retreated into the shadows.
He faces the Cavaliers tonight for the first time as a member of the opposing team. Cleveland is still in the early stages of the rebuild that the front office thought Lue didn't want to be a part of, while Lue is back with a championship-contending team.