LUE MAKING MOST OF SUMMER ON THE SIDELINE
Armed with a blue sheet of copious notes, Tyronn Lue led the Clippers through their first practice since arriving in Las Vegas for Summer League.
He was poised and confident, constructive and praising.
Lue, who has worked under Clippers head coach and senior vice president of basketball operations Doc Rivers since 2009-10, is charged with heading the team’s Summer League entry. It’s the second year in a row he’s done it, coaching the Boston Celtics’ summer squads in both Orlando and Las Vegas last season.
Year one of Summer League for Lue taught him a lot. Most of all, “It’s harder than I thought it was,” Lue said Saturday. “It’s hard, but I’m getting the hang of it. It’s a learning experience every day.”
He is learning on the fly, just four years removed from his last NBA game as a player. Transitioning from being a presence on the court to one on the sidelines has arguably been one of his biggest adjustments.
“My first couple years, I thought I was still a player,” Lue said with a chuckle. “You know, my lifestyle and different things. But as you move up the food chain, things are different. Now they call me ‘coach’ when before it was always T-Lue or whatever. Now you have to take a different approach and I think I’ve been doing that the last couple of years, taking that step forward.”
The first step came when Rivers started giving Lue more responsibility. He helped with scouting reports and worked more directly in game-planning.
“The first two years, [Rivers] said, ‘I want you to enjoy it. See how you like it and get the player out of you,’” Lue said. “I didn’t really have a lot of responsibility. I wasn’t doing scouts. I was still doing what I wanted to do. Then, the last couple of years I’ve had scouts and had a bigger role and Doc’s had me do a lot more things. It’s been great, so hopefully I can just continue getting better and keep growing.”
Placing Lue in charge of the Summer League team is part of that process and it seems to be paying off. Lue, 36, is widely regarded as a young coach on the rise and it is apparent when you watch him interact with players. He is constantly balancing the line between providing encouragement and constructive criticism.
“He’s a great addition,” Clippers rookie forward Reggie Bullock said. “He’s young, he played the game and I can relate to him a lot. Not saying I don’t like older coaches, but I can relate to a young coach like that. He gives me all the confidence in the world. He tells me I’m going to make some mistakes, but just come back game and try to correct them.”
When he watches games from the sideline, the former point guard and 11-year NBA veteran is calculating and observant. In practice, he won’t hesitate to stop a play immediately after a mistake is made to break down what went wrong. Holding players accountable is just one of a litany of things Lue has learned working under Rivers, and playing for him one season with the Orlando Magic in 2003-04. It didn’t hurt that Lue spent two of his first three NBA seasons playing for Phil Jackson’s Lakers, including winning back-to-back titles.
“The biggest thing is that you have to hold all 12 or all 15 guys accountable,” said Lue. “Like with Phil Jackson, he was hardest on Kobe [Bryant] and Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal). It trickled down to everyone else. Doc was the same way. He was hard on [Rajon] Rondo, KG (Kevin Garnett), Paul [Pierce] and Ray [Allen]. If you can get on those guys, then the guys playing behind them, they’re going to understand that they can listen also.”
While Jackson certainly provided a great resource to start his career, Lue never considered coaching during his playing days even after Rivers came to him nine years ago and suggested he would take him under his wing.
“I was going to just take a couple of years off and just relax and enjoy life,” Lue said of his plans post-playing career. “And [friends of mine] were like, ‘Once you get out of the game it’s hard to get back in.’ So, I called Doc like two weeks later when I was done and a day later he had a job for me. He was a man of his word.
“Doc’s been there helping me every step of the way and he’s critiquing me more than he’s critiquing the team. He’s just trying to help me build to get to that next level of hopefully one day being a head coach.”