The Cleveland Cavaliers weren’t connected on or off the floor under coach David Blatt.
On Friday, he paid the price for that lack of unity. And now the Cavaliers are turning to a former Husker.
Blatt was fired by general manager David Griffin, who didn’t think the title-chasing Cavaliers were handling expectations well or acting like a championship team under the second-year coach. Despite Blatt taking them to the NBA Finals last season and a 30-11 record, Griffin sensed his team was going in the wrong direction.
“Sometimes you can win games in the regular season and get worse,” Griffin said at a hastily arranged news conference at the team’s practice facility. “We were regressing over a period of time. There’s a lack of connectedness and spirit that I just couldn’t accept.”
The team announced that Tyronn Lue is taking over as coach.
Lue, who was hired as the team’s associate head coach shortly after Blatt came to Cleveland, will make his debut Saturday night when the Cavs host the Chicago Bulls. Griffin stressed that Lue is not an interim coach and said the team is discussing a contract with him. Reports Friday indicated Lue was given a multi-year deal. Yahoo Sports reported the deal to be three years for $9.5 million.
“He has the pulse of our team,” Griffin said.
ESPN analyst Brian Windhorst tweeted, “(LeBron) James’ fondness for Ty Lue and his desire to be coached by a former player were well known in the organization.”
Lue is the No. 8 all-time leading scorer in Nebraska men’s basketball history. He left for the NBA following his junior season in 1998, and became a first-round pick and later a member of the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. He was inducted into the Nebraska Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
Lue was an assistant with the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers before joining Cleveland in 2014. It was in Boston where Lue learned offense under Doc Rivers and defense under Tom Thibodeau.
When Lue was hired by Cleveland, he became the highest-paid assistant (four years, $6.5 million) in NBA history.
As an NBA player, Lue played for Rivers, Phil Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy and Stan Van Gundy.
Griffin said he did not consult James or any players before making the move to dismiss Blatt, who was surprised to learn he had been fired after going 83-40 in two seasons. Griffin also met with owner Dan Gilbert, who supported the move.
“We believe Tyronn Lue is the right coach at the right time to put us in the best position to take the last but most challenging step to complete our mission to deliver Cleveland an NBA championship,” Gilbert said.