Rule No. 1 of firing a head coach: Have your next steps in place. Make it as orderly and smooth a transition as possible.
Cleveland messed up that first rule with its seemingly impulsive firing of Tyronn Lue. They thought the interim successor was Larry Drew, the former head coach in Atlanta and Milwaukee who was part of the Cavaliers’ staff. He would dutifully take on the interim coach tag and…
Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and GM Koby Altman may have wanted to check with Drew first. A savvy veteran coach familiar with organizational politics (remember he is the guy the Bucks’ new owners shoved aside for Jason Kidd), Drew wanted a hefty pay raise and the security of another year before taking over what unquestionably will be a team losing a lot of games. Drew wants to be compensated for what would happen to his coaching record.
The Cavaliers balked at that, and here we are. Drew will not accept the “interim” tag even though the Cavs called him that in a press release. And Drew sounds frustrated.
If Cleveland is going to be a rebuilding team — and they are a long way from doing that well right now, they have just four players younger than 25 on the roster, and of those only Cedi Osman and Colin Sexton are likely with the team long-term — then they need to go find their developmental coach. Their guy to set a culture. Their Brett Brown or Quin Snyder or Kenny Atkinson. Except, that can be hard to find mid-season because that guy is probably on an NBA staff and is not jumping ship until next summer.
It’s a mess. Gilbert already owes Lue $15 million over three years not to coach, he doesn’t want to add more dead salary on top of that with an interim asking for more than one season. But that’s the cost of not thinking everything through before firing the head coach. It’s why it’s Rule No. 1.