The Los Angeles Clippers are in need of a new bench boss after the surprising departure of Doc Rivers on Monday. This comes after the one-time NBA champion coach failed to live up to LA’s title aspirations this 2019-20 – effectively ending his seven-year tenure with the franchise.
While some fans and pundits continue to mock the LA-based team for supposedly being a “cursed” franchise, the Clippers’ head coaching gig is arguably the best job opening in the league as of now.
Former Houston Rockets tactician Mike D’Antoni is usually the first name being thrown around in discussions, while Jeff Van Gundy is also rumored to a coaching return with the Clips.
However, the Clippers do not really need to take a long and hard look for his replacement. The team already has a highly-capable deputy in Tyronn Lue who can easily take over Rivers’ spot.
Prior to Doc’s firing, Lue was expected to leave the Clippers’ nest for greener pastures and a chance to once again call the shots for his own team.
He was heavily linked to take over for Brett Brown with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Clippers assistant Ty Lue will obviously be a candidate to replace Doc Rivers in LA, remains in the hunt for the Philadelphia job — although Mike D’Antoni is widely considered the favorite — and Lue has also received support for the Houston job, league sources say
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) September 29, 2020
With Doc out of the picture, Lue must re-evaluate his future and stay right where he is if the Clips’ brass comes calling. After all, there are several reasons why he is the perfect fit to lead the Clippers next season.
Lue is already familiar with the personnel
Tyronn Lue has certainly paid his dues with the Steve Balmer-owned franchise, serving two tours of duty for the Clippers as a trusted deputy. He was an assistant to Rivers in the 2013-14 campaign, during which they finished third in the Western Conference with a 57-25 slate and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
He was initially brought back by Doc this season for an “informal position,” but he once again worked his way to be the team’s top deputy.
While being with the team for a year isn’t exactly groundbreaking, it still gives Lue some advantage over possibly a new head coach who will still need some time to get to know his new players and account for their strengths and weaknesses.
Lue won’t need any adjustment period whatsoever if the Ballmer and Co. decide to give him the keys.
Moreover, Lue is regarded around the league as the type of coach connects with players on a deeper level. Plus, a lot of NBA stars respond better to a tactician who actually once played on the same level and understands what it means to be a professional athlete in the highest form of basketball.
Lue’s personality might be better suited for Leonard
Doc Rivers did have plenty of shortcomings as a coach, but let’s knock on some of the accomplishments he has made over the years. However, Doc wasn’t exactly a calming presence you can count on when his teams faced adversity.
That was evident in the 2020 playoffs when the Clippers did not have the resiliency to fight back each time they were down big. Same goes when the team holds a huge advantage, as they panic and allow opposing teams to make spirited comebacks.
While it’s not fair to pin all of that on Doc’s shoulders, his loud and in-your-face approach might not be ideal to the team’s current nucleus.
For instance, Kawhi Leonard is arguably the most laid-back superstar in the NBA right now. He won two championships under coaches with a calm yet re-assuring aura that lifted their team.
His former San Antonio Spurs coach — the legendary Gregg Popovich — was a stern mentor, but he knew exactly what type of energy to use on his team in certain situations.
Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse carried himself in a similar demeanor, and Leonard responded greatly to him during their short partnership.
Tyronn Lue, meanwhile, may not be as assertive as the typical NBA head coaches. Heck, some say he’s too passive to a fault. But judging how badly the Clips faltered in this year’s playoffs, maybe they will respond better to someone with a different coaching style.
Lue already won an NBA title
People still question how big (or little) of an impact Lue truly had on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ lone NBA title in 2016. To this day, fans and pundits alike joke about how LeBron James was the true head coach of that squad.
Still, that’s another feather in Lue’s cap. D’Antoni and Van Gundy might have more career wins and coaching experience, but they never managed to lead a team to a Larry O’Brien trophy.
Apart from finding a way to win games, Lue also had to manage the egos of both James and his fellow superstar Kyrie Irving at the time. That team would have imploded before they even reached the Finals had they been under a coach with an equally inflated ego.
Lue may not be as technical or have intricate sets as compared to the top tacticians in the NBA today. But being a former floor general himself, he knows how to adapt on the fly.
The 43-year-old also has a deep understanding about putting his players on the right spots to succeed. Furthermore, Lue has already proven he is a good motivator when things get tough. The Clippers squandered a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets that led to their elimination this year.
Lue’s 2016 Cavs team, on the other hand, overcame the same odds in the Finals against the overpowered Golden State Warriors.
The Clippers don’t need to look elsewhere. Tyronn Lue is their guy and should be the one calling the shots next season.