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Cavs Notes

Cavaliers: Tyronn Lue, coach of 2016 championship team, fired after 0-6 start

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    Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue yells instructions to players in the second half against the Hawks on Oct. 21 at The Q. Lue was fired Sunday following the Cavs' 0-6 start.

    AP

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Lue beat Hue to the unemployment line.

Though Browns coach Hue Jackson is seemingly always on the hot seat, it was the Cavaliers who made a move Sunday morning, firing coach Tyronn Lue.

Lue, who in 2016 led the Cavs to Cleveland’s only major pro sports championship in the last 54 years, was fired after a 0-6 start that featured at least a 16-point deficit in every game and zero second-half leads. It marks the Cavs’ worst start to a season since the 1995-96 team opened 0-7.

Sixty-year-old Larry Drew, Lue’s lead assistant, will take over as interim head coach, making him Cleveland’s fifth bench boss in a little more than eight years (sixth if Mike Brown is counted twice) and seventh since Dan Gilbert became majority owner in March 2005 (eighth if Brown is counted twice).

“We have respect and great admiration for Ty, not only as a coach, but (as) a person. 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.

“This is a different equation, though, and one that we felt needed a different voice and approach that required this change.”

It appears as though Altman and Lue differed on how best to approach this season, though both wanted to continue to emphasize winning after four-time league MVP LeBron James left to join the Los Angeles Lakers.

After the Cavs started 0-2, Altman met with veterans J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver and Channing Frye to tell them the team was going to go with younger players. Then, after none of the three played in an embarrassing loss to Atlanta in Cleveland’s home opener, Lue went back to using Smith and Korver in the next game. He also started Frye on Thursday in Detroit when Kevin Love was out due to foot soreness, while young big man Ante Zizic has not been in the rotation all season.

Through it all, the Cavs displayed little to no progress in their first six games, and Sunday it cost Lue his job.

“My time here in Cleveland was truly special,” Lue said in a statement obtained by several national outlets. “I am very grateful for the dedication, sacrifice and support of all the players on our team, the tremendous coaches I worked with and, of course, our incredible fans. Lastly, deep thanks to Dan Gilbert, (former general manager) David Griffin and Koby Altman for the opportunity over the last three years, and I only wish the organization success going forward.”

Lue’s firing did not go over well with many Cavs players, who took to social media to voice their support for a coach with a 128-83 career record and four straight trips to the NBA Finals (one as an assistant, three as head coach).

On the flip side, not many players did much on the court to help Lue’s cause this season.

“You helped me see the big picture,” Love posted on Instagram. “Life changing experiences and teaching points. Nothing but love and admiration. Know we will work towards something greater together again. THANK YOU.”

Smith also said thank you to Lue via Instagram before adding “from 3 straight finals and a chip to this!”

“Thank you for always believing in me and being the great leader that you are,” Tristan Thompson posted on Twitter. “3 straight in your first 3 years as head coach is something special. THANK YOU COACH!”

Even James weighed in.

“T Lue thanks for the memories and more importantly our partnership bringing a (trophy emoji) to that deserved city/fan base,” he posted on Twitter. “U know how to find me (prayer emoji)”

Though likable and capable of being tough when needed, Lue frequently struggled when it came to substitutions and making in-game adjustments, particularly at halftime and coming out of timeouts. He also repeatedly stressed defense verbally, but his teams almost always struggled in that area on the floor.

The 41-year-old often answered “I dunno” or “I can’t remember” when asked a question he didn’t want to answer, which irked a number of fans and some media members, though the latter were largely supportive of Lue during his time in Cleveland.

After serving as associate head coach under David Blatt when the Cavs reached The Finals in 2014-15 — they lost Love and Kyrie Irving to injury along the way and fell to Golden State in six games — Lue took over as head coach when Blatt was fired Jan. 22, 2016.

The Cavs went 27-14 under Lue in the 2015-16 regular season — Blatt was canned with a 31-10 record — and became the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals when they beat a Golden State team that had won a league-record 73 games in the regular season.

Lue signed a five-year, $35 million guaranteed contract that offseason and led the Cavs to a 51-31 record in 2016-17, when they lost to the Warriors in five games in The Finals.

After trading Irving in the offseason, Cleveland went 50-32 last season and got swept by Golden State in The Finals.

Drew and the rest of Cleveland’s coaching staff are in the last year of their contracts. There were reports Drew was seeking a commitment from the Cavs to be their head coach beyond this season, but none was announced.

Reports said assistant coach Damon Jones also was fired Sunday.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.

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