Clippers coach Doc Rivers reacts to Cavs firing Tyronn Lue six games into season
On Sunday morning, following their 0-6 start to the season, the four-time defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers decided to fire head coach Tyronn Lue. After two-and-a-half seasons as coach of the Cavs, Lue was relieved of his duties, and L.A. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers was not happy.
“Yeah I did,” when asked whether he talked to Lue before his Clippers took on the visiting Washington Wizards. “I think its awful. I think what it shows you is you got to the Finals, win it, you got to the Finals three years in a row and then come back and get fired. It makes no sense.”
If you’re wondering why Rivers feels so strongly about Lue’s firing, it’s because he gave the then-32 year-old retired player his first shot at coaching in the NBA. Lue announced his decision to move on from playing in the NBA in October of 2009. He then became the fifth Boston Celtics’ assistant on Doc Rivers’ staff. He slowly gained experience and became a respected voice on the Celtics’ sidelines. Under Rivers, he was one of the lead assistants with Boston from 2011-2013 as well as with the L.A. Clippers in 2013-14.
When LeBron James made his move back to Cleveland for the 2014-15 season, the Cavs hired David Blatt and he took a promotion as the associate head coach to David Blatt and the Cavs. Following Blatt’s firing, he was named Blatt’s immediate replacement and signed a five-year extension in the summer of 2016 to be the team’s head coach moving forward.
As everyone knows, Lue coached James and the Cavs to the franchise’s first every NBA Championship back in 2016, overcoming a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors team that won an NBA record 73 games and had the league’s first ever unanimous regular season MVP in Stephen Curry.
“Its the ugly part of our game,” added Rivers. “We talked for along time. He’s really disappointed, but he has a lot to be proud of. He did a heck of a job in extreme circumstances. I’m probably no prouder of anybody that’s played for me and been a coach under me than Ty Lue. It… It makes you so angry when you see stuff like that, but there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Instead of moving on from Lue in the offseason and starting new, Cleveland’s front office put the finishing touches on an NBA roster from whatever they could piece together following LeBron James’ departure, and it appears, expected to be competitive to start the season.
Throughout the last couple of seasons, the Cavs’ inability to defend at a high level was always talked about, but James’ heroics repeatedly put those talks to bed, at least temporarily. Now, the Cavs don’t have any defensive-minded leaders who could lead the team on that end, and when you pair that up with the early injury to Kevin Love, it put Lue in a tough position to succeed.
It’s unclear why exactly the Cavs let Lue go, but reports from a few days ago did state that the front office wanted to focus on the youth while Lue wanted to play some of the veterans like J.R. Smith and Channing Frye if that’s what it took to get a good effort on both ends.
Following the announcement, Lue released a statement (via Marc Spears of ESPN) thanking everyone within the organization
“I thought he handled it the way…,” Rivers stopped before saying. “He’s better than me. He handled it with just amazing class, he thanked everybody. He’s better than me.”