Despite owning the Eastern Conference's best record, the Cleveland Cavaliers made a major change at the top by hiring Tyronn Lue to be their new head coach Friday, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Wojnarowski added the deal was a three-year contract worth at least $9.5 million.
Dave McMenamin of ESPN reported Lue's contract isn't an extension; he's the head coach with no interim title.
Wojnarowski reported the Cavaliers fired David Blatt, who had been the team's head coach since June 2014 and helped lead Cleveland to the NBA Finals in his first season.
The Cavaliers entered Friday with a 30-11 record, 3.5 games better than the second-place Toronto Raptors.
Lue has waited for his opportunity to become an NBA head coach, serving as an assistant with the Boston Celtics (2009-13) and Los Angeles Clippers (2013-14) before moving to Cleveland as an associate head coach prior to last season.
It seemed inevitable that Lue would take over in Cleveland at some point, though. When the Cavaliers hired Lue, Wojnarowski reported they made him the highest-paid assistant coach in NBA history with a four-year deal worth $6.5 million:
Cavaliers management grew fond of Lue during the interview process for the head-coaching job that ultimately went to Blatt and immediately pursued him for the associate head-coaching job. Rivers didn't want to lose Lue from his Clippers staff, but the Cavaliers' historic financial commitment made it impossible to turn down, sources said.
In fact, Lue became the de facto choice of James and his management team when their top choice, former Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson, was ruled out by Cavaliers management, according to Wojnarowski.
When asked on Saturday what he'd do differently than Blatt, Lue said "I wouldn't say 'differently,' I would say 'better,'" per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
Blatt came on board before LeBron James returned to town and helped establish Cleveland as an Eastern Conference power, so his job status always felt tenuous, even as the team was having success on the court.
Marc Stein of ESPN.com even noted that James seemed to be overriding Blatt during the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors last year.
"I saw it from close range in my role as sideline reporter through the Finals for ESPN Radio," Stein said. "James essentially called timeouts and made substitutions. He openly barked at Blatt after decisions he didn't like. He huddled frequently with Lue, often looking at anyone other than Blatt."
The Cavaliers may own the best record in the Eastern Conference, but they aren't building for that. They were the best team in the East last year, regardless of what the Atlanta Hawks' record in the regular season was, and it showed in the playoffs.
Cleveland is built for the postseason, with Golden State and the San Antonio Spurs looking like the big dogs on the block. James came back to the Cavaliers hoping to win a championship with the franchise in his home state.
Lue may not have any head coaching experience, but Cleveland has given him the keys to one of the best cars in the NBA. There are going to be a lot of expectations out of the gate, but he has a talented roster to help make this an easy transition.