Will the 76ers pull the trigger on Ty Lue?
On paper, the Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach is the best candidate for their vacant head-coaching job.
Some might argue that former Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan is better with the X’s and O’s.
But Lue’s solid play-calling has been overlooked due to the luxury of having coached LeBron James, the four-time MVP with an extremely high basketball IQ. And folks can’t deny he has the NBA championship pedigree that the Sixers seek.
Lue, a likable reserve guard as a player, won consecutive NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000 and 2001. As a coach, he led the James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to their only NBA title in 2016. The Cavs were runners-up in the NBA Finals in each of the following two seasons.
A hot commodity at the moment, Lue was a candidate for the Brooklyn job before the Nets hired Steve Nash last week. He remains a candidate for the New Orleans job. And, according to sources, the mutual interest he has with the Sixers remains serious.
So what’s the holdup?
The Sixers fired Brett Brown on Aug. 24, one day after being swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round. Thursday will mark the 17th day since his firing.
Over that time, Villanova coach Jay Wright has announced that he’s not a candidate for the job. Meanwhile, sources have said that Los Angeles Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, Golden State Warriors assistant Mike Brown, former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, and former Sixers coach John Lucas, now the Houston Rockets' player development coach, are interested.
And now Donovan is being mentioned as a possible candidate after news broke Tuesday night that he and Oklahoma City agreed to not extend his contract. The Long Island native was named co-coach of the year with Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer this season by the National Basketball Coaches Association. The league’s coaches vote on the award.
It was the last season of the five-year deal Donovan signed with the Thunder after a successful stint at the University of Florida, where Sixers post player Al Horford won back-to-back NCAA titles in 2006 and 2007 under Donovan.
The coach compiled a 243-157 record (.608) and advanced to the postseason in all five of his seasons with the Thunder. He led Oklahoma City to the conference finals during his first season with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Chicago Bulls are expected to consider him for their vacant job.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni continues to be mentioned as a Sixers coaching candidate. However, the expectation is that he’ll be hired by the Indiana Pacers, who fired Nate McMillan last month.
So what about McMillan for the Sixers job?
He’s a no-nonsense guy, capable of shaking players out of their comfort zones. While that’s a good thing, McMillan’s demanding ways might be a little too extreme for players not used to being held accountable.
By now, folks know that from the start of the Sixers' “Process,” young lottery picks were treated like All-Stars even before they played in their first NBA games. As could be expected, that gave them a sense of entitlement. Standouts such as Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons could basically do whatever they wanted to do. They still do.
At this point, Embiid and Simmons have a lot of control. Bringing in a coach like McMillan at this time could have a negative effect.
So the best coach in this instance is someone who is respected and has a championship pedigree. Players will follow him because he’s proven. That’s Lue, who checks a lot of boxes.
So what’s the holdup?
He wants to make $7 million annually but will settle for $5-6 million. The Sixers will have to decide if they’re willing to pay that fee when Brown is owed $10 million. Not only that, but the departed coach’s assistants are also under contract for another season.
Lue will want to bring in his own assistant coaches, and the Sixers are looking to reshape the front office. On top of the money owed to Brown’s staff, the new hires are going to add up.
To his credit, general manager Elton Brand said the Sixers were going to be patient while looking for a coach. They never gave a timeline for a hire.
But for a team in search of a respected champion, Lue remains the best option.