While it may be peculiar to say the coach of the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers- who are on television religiously and are a known commodity- is a mystery, it is also true. Tyronn Lue is uncomfortable being the center of media attention and gives few, if any, on air interviews. Dave McMenamin (ESPN) had to exert a month of effort to get Lue to commit to a far ranging interview that was less about the Cavs and their championship hopes than it was about the Ty Lue he only allows close friends to see, Ty Lue, the man.
Lue has only been coaching sixteen months and what a sixteen months it has been, with very few surprises- well, maybe he never expected to trail 1-3 in the Finals, but Lue admitted “One crucial move can cost you. You never want to let your team down. That’s why I stay prepared. Everything I do is for the good of the team but it may not work all the time. You want to put the players in the right position to win. ” And for the most part, he has.
A native of Mexico, Missouri, Lue was drafted with the 23rd pick in the 1998 draft by the Nuggets and then was traded to the Lakers, a move that Lue is forever grateful to Jerry West for. The Lakers was his first up close and personal experience with the gifted (Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant) but it wouldn’t be his last. He stayed in Los Angeles long enough to win two titles and for Phil Jackson’s influence to make an impact on how Lue coaches today.
“I let guys figure it out. Do your own thing. We have structure but after that you are a grown man. Be smart. Be safe. But I let the guys do what they want to do.” Lue takes pride in his demeanor on the sidelines.
“I learned to be poised on the sidelines. When you get to the timeouts everyone is poised, everyone is locked in. You can execute better.” (Ty Lue)
As for his first NBA team, the Lakers, Ty Lue has a Laker room in his house. Much of the memorabilia that hangs in Staples Center is in his private collection, an idea sparked by then teammate and now Lakers assistant Brian Shaw.
“I had a chance to get all the Lakers greats, the jerseys you see hanging in Staples Center, I have that hanging in the Lakers room. That is the first place I went and the Lakers mean so much to me. Jerry West drafted me and gave me my opportunity. Brian Shaw said you want to remember these moments. It’s cool to have.”
Lue admitted, wistfully, how easy it was to get memorabilia in the “old days”. One equipment guy would call another equipment guy and then in the mail there would be a package. In his office, he has Kobe’s shoes, Jordan’s shoes and Shaq’s shoes. In a safety deposit box, he has the tape of when he visited the White House. When President Barack Obama singled Lue out, said his name as well as his hometown of Mexico, Missouri it was an emotional moment for Lue. He was this little kid, in this little town and now look at him, at the White House, the President knowing who he is.
In his safety deposit box he also has Kobe’s 81 point game on tape, as well as other memorabilia he cherishes. Lue will never wear the suit he wore in Game 7 versus the Warriors. “It was a special moment for Cleveland and the state of Ohio.”
Particularly because Lue was dropped in the middle of the fire with no training, no experience, no previous job to teach him the nuts and bolts, his learning curve was more pronounced. He didn’t have the luxury to coach when no one was watching his mistakes and he could grow with a young team. He had LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and a $100+ million dollar payroll, not to mention the media bubble. Any and every team with LeBron James on it is going to be dissected backwards and forwards.
Lue used to get upset about the wealth of stories surfacing in the media, particularly the ones that were not true, but his growth has been in the area of not sweating the small stuff, letting it go, though it still gets to him, why things are written that have zero factual basis.
“People are going to say what they are going to say. They have to sell books. They have to sell stories. That is their job. I don’t like it when they make stuff up and lie. When you make stuff up that’s the part I don’t get and makes me mad.”
Lue admitted he did call KG when Andrew Bogut went down with the injury. Lue was not coaching the Bogut game, he had vertigo and Larry Drew took his place. But once he was informed about the injury, his first thought was KG.
“I talked to him and told him you should come back and play for me. He said, ‘you have a lot going on over there. If you and [James] Posey were still there [on the court] I’d come. I’ll sit this one out’.”
Kevin Garnett is “great for the culture. To have a Hall of Fame player make it all about team, it’s unbelievable” Lue admitted.
His coaching mentor, Doc Rivers, told Lue that being a head coach was the hardest job he’d ever have.
“This is the hardest job by far [coaching the Cavs]. I just try not to listen to the outside noise, the media and what they have to say. As long as I have the support of David Griffin, Dan Gilbert, the players, the city of Cleveland, the state of Ohio, as long as I have their support, that’s all that matters.”
LeBron’s minutes have been a talking point all season long and history has shown that players who have logged his amount of minutes never win. The paradox is not lost on Lue. If he sits James, he is criticized. People will say [Michael] Jordan would have played. If he plays him he is criticized. People will say, he is playing LBJ too many minutes, fatigue will ruin him. Lue responded, “You want to win games. That is what you are supposed to do. I give him [LeBron] all the credit for that. He never comes to me and says he wants to play less minutes.”
His strategy in the first round was advanced when the Pacers played Paul George as many minutes as LeBron James. Despite his respect for George’s talent, Lue knew that he was going to get drained having to defend LeBron 44 minutes and then having to do so much of the heavy offensive lifting.
With everything that has happened to him, Lue, in his first full year coaching the Cavs, is more philosophical than he was in the crazed rush of last year.
“I tried to be perfect every single time. You never have time to enjoy it. This year I am different. I am trying to enjoy it more and not let the outside noise get to me. “
photo via llananba