Jerry West went off on Tyronn Lue for being ‘scared’ and ‘nervous’ to accept Cavs coaching job

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Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Tyronn Lue said he wasn’t sure if he should take the Cleveland Cavaliers head coaching job after David Blatt was fired during the 2015-16 NBA season, but an emotional phone call with one of his mentors convinced him and led to a historic championship.

Lue was an assistant coach on Blatt’s staff when the Cavs decided to fire the head coach in January 2016 despite sporting a 30-11 record. Lue recalled that he first called Doc Rivers, who he worked with on the Los Angeles Clippers, before reaching out to Jerry West, who had traded for Lue as an executive for the Los Angeles Lakers.

“Then I called Jerry West,” Lue said. “He went, ‘You mother, you what the.’ He going crazy. ‘You gotta take the job. If you don’t, somebody else is gonna take it.’ So, I took the job. And like I said, I was scared. I was nervous ’cause I didn’t know — we haven’t had a training camp. It’s not my team. It’s not my players. … I was scared.”

It couldn’t have turned out better for Lue, who guided the Cavaliers to their first NBA title. Cleveland went 27-14 during the regular season after he took over and then swept the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks before eliminating the Toronto Raptors in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals to set up a rematch with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

The Cavs fell behind 3-1 before winning three straight games to become the only team to ever rally to win the NBA championship after facing that deficit in the best-of-seven final round.

Lue admitted he didn’t believe he was ready to become a head coach at the time, especially with the huge expectations the Cavaliers were facing with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving attempting to give the city its first NBA title after reaching the Finals under Blatt in 2015.

Lue praised Irving, James, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson for helping him transition to the head coaching role. The Cavs would return to the Finals under Lue for two more seasons but lost both times to the Warriors.

After James left as a free agent to join the Los Angeles Lakers, Lue was fired after the Cavs started the 2018-19 campaign with six straight losses. They finished that season 19-63 and were not in the playoffs again until reaching them last season.

The 46-year-old is about to enter his fourth season as head coach of the Clippers, ironically also trying to lead that franchise to its first NBA championship with West as a consultant for the organization.

His successful coaching career may never have gotten to this point had he not heeded the heated advice an NBA legend gave to him when he needed it most.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. One of his favorite sports memories is the Cavaliers-Nets playoff series from 1993.