Tyronn Lue didn’t make it through the season’s first month without LeBron James.
The Cleveland Cavaliers fired their coach on Sunday (Oct. 28) and named assistant Larry Drew interim head coach. The Cavaliers are off to a 0-6 start without James, who left Cleveland this summer for the second time in his career and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent.
Lue guided the Cavaliers to an NBA title in 2016 — Cleveland’s first pro sports championship since 1964 — and helped the team to four straight Finals.
“We thank him for the many ways he has contributed to our success, wish him the best and he will always be remembered for leading a very special Cavs team back against the odds to win the title in 2016,” general manager Koby Altman said in a statement. “This is a different team equation, though, and one that we felt needed a different voice and approach that required this change.”
Assistant coach Damon Jones also was fired. A former Cavaliers player, Jones had been promoted during the off-season.
Lue issued a statement in which he thanked team owner Dan Gilbert, former general manager David Griffin and Altman.
“My time here in Cleveland was truly special,” Lue added. “I am very grateful for the dedication, sacrifice and support of all the players on our team, the tremendous coaches I’ve worked with and of course, our incredible fans.”
Players appeared to be caught off-guard by Lue’s dismissal. All-Star Kevin Love, who has missed the past two games with a sore left foot, posted a message to Lue on Instagram.
“You helped me see the big picture,” Love wrote. “Life changing experiences and teaching points. Nothing but love and admiration. Know we will work towards something greater together again. THANK YOU.”
Love also posted a photo of him and Lue hugging on the court at Oracle Arena after the Cavaliers rallied from a 3-1 deficit and won Game 7 of the 2016 Finals over Golden State.
James also expressed gratitude toward his former coach on Twitter.
“T Lue thanks for the memories and more importantly our partnership bringing a (championship) to that deserved city/fan base,” James said. “U know how to find me.”
The 41-year-old Lue has three years left on a five-year, $35 million contract he signed after Cleveland won the title. He went 128-83 in three-plus seasons as coach.
Drew filled in when Lue stepped aside for 10 games last season while dealing with chest pains, insomnia and anxiety. He came to Cleveland as an assistant in 2014 after serving as head coach for the Milwaukee Bucks (2013-2014) and Atlanta Hawks (2010-2013).
The Cavaliers were hoping to remain competitive without James, but they’ve been overmatched. They dropped their sixth straight game on Saturday night (Oct. 27) to Indiana and are off to their worst start since losing their first seven games in the 1995-96 season.
Cleveland has trailed by at least 16 points in all six losses and the club has yet to lead in the second half. The Cavs have also been plagued by poor defense and communication issues, and has looked disorganized at times.
The Cavaliers host Atlanta on Tuesday night, Oct. 30. Led by rookie Trae Young’s 35 points, the Hawks clobbered the Cavs by 22 points in Cleveland’s home opener last week.
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