Last season, when Tyronn Lue was named David Blatt’s replacement as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the then associate head coach, Lue, refused to sign a new contract. In fact, Lue says he initially didn’t want the job leaning towards declining 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.”
When most would envy the situation Lue was presented with, being the head coach of star-studded Cavaliers team that had a good chance to win a championship, the 39-year-old said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to deal with the drama that came with it.
“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.”
Having been around the professional game for several years as a player and coach, Lue also talked about what it’s like coaching James compared to the other greats he’s been associated with.
“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.”
Since moving to head coach, the rollercoaster of emotions Lue has been on has been priceless, reaching it’s highest peak after the Cavaliers won the NBA Finals. The coach talked about the city of Cleveland’s reaction to winning their first major sports championship in 52 years after his team defeated the Golden State Warriors in June.
“[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.
The most interesting story Lue received from a fan came in Las Vegas.
“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.”