If we were to tick off all the surprises that have hit us in 2020, yesterday’s news of Brett Brown’s firing would practically be last on the list. Even those among us who count ourselves as Brown supporters accepted the inevitable after watching the Boston Celtics sweep Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs. Brett will undoubtedly find his way to another position somewhere in the league, and we wish him all the best.
Now, the waiting game begins to find out who will be pacing the sidelines for the Sixers next season (you know, whenever that is set to take place). According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, a leading candidate is current Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Tyronn Lue.
The Sixers will run a coaching search and talk to multiple candidates, but the interest in Clippers assistant Ty Lue is expected to be mutual, sources said. The Sixers cornerstone talent and resources are intriguing to candidates, including Lue. https://t.co/zsFgutqSCG— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 24, 2020
Lue, an 11-year NBA veteran who won two titles with the Shaq-and-Kobe-era Los Angeles Lakers, was an assistant coach for Boston, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Cleveland Cavaliers before taking over as Cleveland’s head coach in the middle of the 2015-16 season. To be sure, it was an interesting entry into the head coaching profession for Lue.
In January 2016, the Cavaliers fired head coach David Blatt despite the team’s 30-11 record. Blatt had also coached the Cavs to a 53-29 record a year earlier in his first season at the helm, guiding Cleveland to the NBA Finals before losing to the Golden State Warriors in six games. Blatt had originally been hired to shepherd Cleveland through a rebuild with a young roster, but those plans went out the window during the summer of 2014 when LeBron James announced he was returning home to Cleveland. Although there are conflicting reports, many believe LeBron never vibed with Blatt, and pushed for Lue to replace him.
Whatever the reason, no one in Cleveland will ever question the move after the Cavaliers came back from down 3-1 to win the 2016 NBA Finals and bring the city its first title in franchise history. Lue remained the head coach through the Cavaliers’ two subsequent trips to the Finals (both won by Golden State). Then, after LeBron left for the Lakers, the Cavaliers started the 2018-19 season 0-6 and Lue was fired. He was hired as an assistant coach this season by the Clippers.
On paper, it’s hard to argue with Lue’s resume. He has a career .607 winning percentage during the regular season, and has reached the NBA Finals during every season he has finished as head coach, winning once. Of course, the vast, vast majority of the credit for that success has to go to LeBron James, with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love then coming well ahead of the former Cavs head coach in the pecking order.
However, while most people think you could throw a toddler out there with a clipboard and win games as long as you have LeBron, there’s some evidence that coaching the greatest of this era is trickier than it seems (look no further than last year’s Lakers). Between his Lakers playing career and his Cleveland head coaching stint, Lue definitely has a history of positive interactions with superstars, which would bode well for potential partnerships with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Whether he’s the man capable of fully unlocking the talents of two players who don’t fit together perfectly on the court would remain to be seen.
We don’t know whether the new head coach will arrive sooner or later, as while it would appear the Sixers are leaning towards keeping Elton Brand around in some capacity, they’ve indicated other changes will be made in the front office. Those dismissals may come before a decision is made about the next head coach. I’m sure it’s not the last time we’ll hear Lue’s name, or that of Ime Udoka, Jay Wright, Stan Van Gundy, etc., in the days to come.
Regardless, I know one surefire way to have everyone get on board with a potential Lue hire: an ironclad commitment that at least once a year, he and Allen Iverson recreate the stepover.