Tyronn Lue: All-Star coach with a 2-1 record.
That bothers a lot of people.
The NBA confirmed the Cavaliers coach, who took over for a fired David Blatt last week, would coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars this year. That isn’t a surprise. As long as he didn’t coach in the All-Star game the prior season, the coach of the team with the conference’s best record two weeks prior to the game will coach it. That’s Lue.
Lue could raise his record to 4-1 before the deadline for picking coaches – Cleveland has a big enough lead to clinch the East’s top spot already – though I suspect that wouldn’t reduce the criticism. Many just don’t believe Lue earned this.
But what about the All-Star coach who had a 0-0 record that season?
I’m not talking about a Luke Walton 0-0 record. Unlike Walton, who didn’t officially collect any wins or losses while covering for an injured Steve Kerr, this coach legitimately coached only one game all season – the All-Star game.
And yes, it caused outrage.
Let’s go back to the 1966-67 season. The NBA chose All-Star coaches differently. The coach whose teams won division titles (this predates conferences) the previous year coached the All-Star game.
The 76ers won the 1966 Eastern Division, but they fired their coach, Dolph Schayes, after losing to the eventual NBA-champion Celtics in the playoffs. That was the final coaching title for Red Auerbach, who retired after the season to move into Boston’s front office.
That June, the NBA named its All-Star coaches for the following season: Fred Schaus of the Western Division-champion Lakers – and the retired Auerbach.
Of course, that didn’t sit well in Philadelphia
The Boston Globe reported Auerbach’s appointment came at the request of San Francisco, then home of the Warriors and host of the 1967 All-Star game.
But that didn’t stop 76ers star Wilt Chamberlain from stumping for Schayes’ replacement in Philadelphia, Alex Hannum. Chamberlain even said he petitioned the league for Hannum to replace Auerbach as All-Star coach.
“In the first place, I have never received any such petition,” NBA president J. Walter Kennedy told the Globe. “In the second place, if I did, I would not give it any consideration, because back on June 9th, 1966, the league owners unanimously voted this honor to Red Auerbach.”
Auerbach’s response was even sharper.
“I never asked to coach this game,” he told the Globe. “You think I wanted to come out of retirement? Philadelphia people are making more noise this year about how the league should be run and they have won nothing to date.”
On the other hand, Auerbach had won plenty, including the last four All-Star games. But the West got its revenge in 1967 with a 135-120 victory.
Auerbach just didn’t see the end of it, getting ejected from the exhibition.
“I got on one of the guys in the first quarter because they were letting too much go and I was afraid someone was going to get hurt,” Auerbach said in “Let Me Tell You a Story.” “All of a sudden, one guy, I don’t even remember who it was, turns around and hits me with a technical. I said, ‘What are you, nuts? This is the all-star game. You don’t give people technical fouls. He says, ‘Oh yeah? You just got another. You’re outta here.’ At first I didn’t think he was serious. But he was. I didn’t make it through the first quarter.”
Thus ended Auerbach’s coaching career – one that was, for most intents and purposes, already long over
The NBA has just never prioritized sending deserving coaches to the All-Star break, because that’s an impossible thing to evaluate.
Did Auerbach deserve it for his great career? Does Phil Jackson deserve it this year because he’s the most-accomplished living coach or former coach? Would Blatt have deserved it for winning the most games this season – with LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving on his roster? Does Raptors coach Dwane Casey deserve it for having the conference’s best individual coaching record? Does Casey deserve it because the game is in Toronto? Does Derek Fisher deserve it for helping the Knicks improve more than any team in the conference? Does Scott Skiles deserve it for being the conference’s active leader in wins? Does Erik Spoelstra deserve it for being the conference’s active leader in championships?
Or does Lue deserve it because the league had to pick some criteria beforehand, and he fit it?
There’s no way to make this completely fair, so the NBA settled for straightforward. Walton/Kerr and Blatt/Lue tested the rules this season, but the league found clear resolutions.
So, complain about Lue’s 2-1 record if you want. Just remember, more discretion into the process put a 0-0 coach into the All-Star game.