Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press
When Tyrone Loue agreed to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, as first reported by Adrian Voynarovsky of ESPN, his biggest challenge immediately became dealing with superstar Kawhi Leonard.
While most coaches can only dream of getting the chance to work with a player like Leonard, he is only the second-largest talent that Loue, who is now in his second lead, has led.
Spending two and a half seasons (four in total, counting his duties as head coach) with LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers from 201
After coaching James and spending some time around some of the greatest players and coaches the NBA has ever seen, perhaps no one is better suited to lead Leonard and the Clippers.
As he was in Cleveland, he enters his new job well prepared.
Lou and David Blatt were the two finalists for the Cavaliers’ head coaching job in 2014, before James decided to return. General manager David Griffin likes Lue and wants him to win the job. Cavs Governor Dan Gilbert preferred Blatt and his overseas experience instead. Apparently, the person responsible for writing the checks got the last word.
Lue agreed to join Blatt’s staff, although he lost his job, and the Cavs made him the highest paid assistant in the league at the time. When Blatt was fired in January 2016, Loue didn’t even want the job and was forced to take it only from the advice he sought from Doc Rivers, the man he now replaces in Los Angeles.
Lue spent a year and a half getting to know James, earning respect from him and those in the locker room next to him. In the same way, he spent last season as an assistant to Rivers at the Clippers, already establishing a connection with the current players.
Perhaps the most important thing a head coach can do is get his star player into his system, a strategy that allows everyone else to get in line.
While James never seemed to respect Blatt or Mike Brown before him in Cleveland, Loue was different.
There was a wait, with James usually talking over Blatt, but this time Lou told James to the Cavs’ teammates, “Shut up. [expletive] up. I realized this. “
Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press
Lue said the first thing he did when he became head coach of the Cavaliers was to sit down with James one on one and explain his vision and what they need to do together to fix the team.
Lue gave James the answer, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic: “Man, T. Lue, I’m on board. Whatever you have to do, whatever you need me for, you have it.”
Now he and Leonard must have the same conversation.
Obviously James and Leonard are very different players and people. While James demonstrates his passion over and over again during games and timeouts (for better or worse), Leonard prefers to set an example and skip the shouts and screams.
It is neither right nor wrong, of course, as long as the message is delivered.
Lue is actually more similar in character to Leonard. He is quite calm on the sidelines, an excellent observer who rarely raises technical fouls. His steady demeanor should blend well with Leonard, who received a very different coach from Greg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs.
Lue must choose her seats to push and push Leonard, not allowing his superstar to feel too comfortable or believe he is doing enough.
Even at their biggest moment together, Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, Lue still challenged James in front of the team. Close to halftime, James was on his way to a triple-double and was brilliant as he led Cleveland to a 3-3 draw against the Golden State Warriors after starting the series 3-1. Still, it wasn’t good enough for Loue.
He criticized James for being passive, for being careless with the ball and for allowing Draymond Green to hit five three-pointers in the first half.
“Brawne was crazy, he got mad at me and then we went into the locker room at halftime and I told him the same thing in front of all the boys,” Lou told Lee Jenkins, then Sports Illustrated. “He was crazy again, angry again.”
The moment may have been awkward, but it worked.
James finished the game with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists, and he turned the ball only once in the second half while holding Green to 1-on-3 from depth after going 5-on-5 in the first half.
While most coaches wouldn’t dare upset their Superstar with a Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Loue knew all the right buttons to press. In the end, he got the result he was looking for.
Lou’s experience in the NBA also goes beyond James.
As an 11-season player and now entering his tenth season as a coach, his NBA contact list is legendary.
Tony Dejac / Associated Press
As a Los Angeles Lakers defender, he saw firsthand how Phil Jackson ruled the ego of Shaquille O’Neill and Kobe Bryant, an experience that ended with a championship ring in 2001. He played alongside Michael Jordan with Washington Wires, Jason Kidd and Dirk Novitsky at the Dallas Mavericks and Prime Minister Dwight Howard at the Orlando Magic 2008-09 for his final season.
The list of players that Lue has watched as a coach is just as impressive.
In addition to James, Louie directed Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in Cleveland, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce as Rivers’ assistants with the Boston Celtics and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin with the Clippers.
Maybe that’s why Louis never blinks when he trains James.
Having this conversation with Leonard is a must, as is forcing him to come in and trust that Lue can take the Clippers to the championship, just as he did with another superstar with a small striker in a franchise who had never won a title before. .
He needs to make that connection now, so when things get volatile, which will happen, Leonard will have a solid foundation of trust to draw from, knowing that Louis wants only the best for the team.
James believes in Lou’s vision and it ends with three trips to the finals and a ring. Clippers have the talent to do such a run, but only if Lennard does the same.