The Case For Tyronn Lue

With the divorce of Brett Brown and the 76ers, it’s time now to shift gears into search mode for a new coach. If you look you’ll find names like Becky Hammon and Ime Udoka and honestly, I have no idea what they bring to the table. One name though really jumps off the page for me. Tyronn Lue.

Lue won 2 NBA championships as a player, and one as the head coach of the Lebron James led Cleaveland Cavaliers. Lue fits the mold of what, I personally believe, to be a good head coach, ex-player with success but also was never a star. Too often we fall for star player turn coach that doesn’t really work out, but Lue brings an interesting aspect that I like to call the backup quarterback theory. His accomplishments as a player still demand respect, but he should also understand that not every player is born to be great, and you need to get the best out of them at times.

Beyond that, Lue has experience dealing with personalities and stars of the game. Not only did he play with Kobe and Shaq, and in theory learned from Phil Jackson how to manage the egos, he was also the head coach of a championship team that included Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, and J.R. Smith, and is now an assistant coach of the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Tyronn marks off all the checkmarks of being around and succeeding with multiple superstars in every aspect of the game.

It is easy to write off Lue for coaching a Lebron led team, but make no mistake it’s not an easy task. Just coaching in the NBA finals is a huge learning curve, let alone trying to handle guys like Lebron and getting role players to buy-in. We have seen Lue out coach Kerr at times in the finals, and he brings a great defensive mindset that would bold well given the Sixers roster construction. Although his regular-season defense wasn’t great, when it was time to ramp up and really coach in the playoffs, we saw him take the team to the next level. Yes, Lebron is a big reason for them winning, but Lue was too, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Lue is often seen as a pushover, being handpicked by Lebron, and that Lebron essentially coached that team and Lue was just a guy. But I believe that can’t be further from the truth. In fact, there is a story from Ken Berger of CBS Sports that details the exact opposite:

“[Other Cavs] felt they were doing this for Lebron.” the person familiar with the internal workings of the team said. “instead of with Lebron.”

Lue changed that the moment he first told James in a huddle.”Shut the fuck up. I got this.” according to a person who heard the exchange – and a few others like it. If Lue was going to get the stars and the role players to buy into the strategic changes he was determined to implement – play faster, space the floor, move the ball, take full advantage of [Kevin] Love’s versatility – he was going to have to restore order first.

He did it in every way possible, starting with James- calling him out in film sessions, barking at him in practice, seizing control back. Only then could the Cavaliers evolve into the juggernaut we are witnessing now.

From Des Bieler of The Washington Post “Tyronn Lue told James, Shut the [bleep] up and the Cavs responded”, May 18, 2016

Multiple things that stick out to me in this story are playing faster, spacing the ball, and taking full advantage of versatility. The 76ers, with Ben Simmons, are going to want to play fast, obviously wnat to space the floor, and more importantly, they need someone to take advantage of Embiid’s and Harris’ versatility, much like Lue was able to do with Kevin Love. But also it shows Lue’s ability to not only command respect from one of the league’s greatest players but also use Lebron in order to get role players to buy-in. This 76ers team could really use a guy that will know how to push buttons, and challenge guys like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

If you look deep enough you can find more examples of Lue getting the best out of his players including Lebron. Ty in his first interview after being fired by the Cavs spoke about one of his best stories with Lebron, where he thought he needed more out of Lebron and called him out and walks back into the coaching office, during halftime of game 7 of the finals. It pissed Lebron off and he was ready to storm out. Lebron turned to Damon Jones and expressed his disgust with Lue at the time. Damon Jones asked you’ve trusted him this whole time, why not now? James Jones followed up with a “is he lying?”, a question that Lebron didn’t seem to like either. Lebron went on to have a dominate second half, and Lue in the interviewed gave this ending to the story:

“And then he went out and dominated the second half,” Lue said. “After the game, ‘Bron said to me, ‘You know how to push my buttons, don’t you?”

“Yeah, motherfucker,” he responded to LeBron.

From Joe Vardon of The Athletic, “Tyronn Lue, in the first interview since Cavaliers fired him, says he still wishes he coached in Cleveland” Jan 14, 2020

Lue was able to successfully gain respect from one one of the best basketball players ever, as a first-time head coach, but also Lue was able to gain the respect from other players by demanding it from his star. Sounds like something that would benefit the 7 6ers doesn’t it? Besides the ability to push players’ buttons the right way, Lue is very much underrated when it comes to x’s and o’s as you can see in the tweet below.

An opposing argument when it comes to Ty is “but he was fired 6 games into not having Lebron”. And while true, the firing was not due to Lue’s inability to coach, rather more of a disagreement in the team’s direction. According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, Lue wanted to play veterans over the young guys. Both J.R. Smith and Kevin Love were taken out of the rotation one game against Lue’s wishes, and then Lue put both vets back into the rotation the very next game against GM Koby Altman’s preference. The disagreement in the direction of the franchise led to the Lue firing.

Lue has the championship pedigree that this 76ers team should be looking for. He has dealt with and gotten the most out of big names in the league and role players alike. He knew his players well enough, to be tough on them and also be a players coach. If Lue can get respect from Lebron James, he should have no problem getting it from guys like Simmons’, Embiid, and Harris, and use that to get the rest of the team to buy in around them. Getting this team to the next tier will start with getting the best out of their stars, and Lue has the ability to do that. Lue has proven he can manage the regular season, leading the Cavs to their best regular-season record ever, but then when the time comes for the playoffs you can see Ty really ramp up and take it into another gear. This is a skill that some say Brett Brown lacks, as we saw multiple 50 win seasons but only to lose in the second round of the playoffs.

The 76ers have some serious work to do this offseason. Bad roster construction, a front office rehaul, player development, and a coaching search is a big task to accomplish in one offseason, but this is what the team is looking at. Lue will have his choice of jobs once the playoffs are over but with reports are that the 76ers and Lue have a mutual interest in each other, and don’t ignore the Lebron – Ben – Lue – Klutch connection which could set the team up for an easy decision to hire a coach that will hopefully get this team to the next level.

Jan 25, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) shakes hands with Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) after a 76ers victory at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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