A Tyronn Lue bidding war is shaping up this offseason. The Brooklyn Nets reportedly are interested (with Kyrie Irving pushing for a reunion), as are the New Orleans Pelicans (although the buzz around the league is this option is fading).
Enter the Philadelphia 76ers.
Lue is the frontrunner to replace Brett Brown as the 76ers coach, but Lakers’ assistant Jason Kidd and Rockets assistant John Lucas are both interested as well, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. That trio is in addition to Jay Wright of Villanova (a Philly guy), Mike Brown, Ime Udoka, and Dave Joerger, all of whom have been tied to the job in rumors and reports.
Interviews to be the next 76ers coach have not yet started. This is all just jockeying for position.
Philadelphia is a tempting but challenging job. It needs a coach who can better mesh the games of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons on the court (and get through to Simmons about taking threes). However, part of that is changing the roster to surround them to add shooting and playmaking so the floor spacing is better, something that falls on GM Elton Brand, not the coach.
It’s easy to see why Lue is the frontrunner. He brings respect and an impressive resume — Lue won a ring as a head coach in Cleveland, he relates to stars, is a former player, and is currently the lead assistant on Doc Rivers’ staff in Los Angeles. He is the biggest name coach available and would command respect in the locker room, plus is an underrated as an Xs and Os guy.
However, it’s going to be expensive to get him with Brooklyn also in the running (Lue is rumored to be asking $7 million a year and five-year contract, and don’t forget Brown is still owed $10 million over two years, and all of this during a pandemic and down economy). Philadelphia can afford it, but Lue will have options and can take the job that best suits him.
Kidd, the current Lakers’ lead assistant, is the former Brooklyn and Milwaukee coach who helped develop Giannis Antetokounmpo. Players have tremendous respect for the Hall of Fame point guard, but front offices are understandably cautious. For one, his offenses felt dated and relied on a lot of isolation (although with the Bucks it was top 10 in the league), while his blitzing defensive schemes did not work. In Milwaukee and Brooklyn, Kidd was always pushing for more power in the organization. There are also off-the-court red flags on Kidd’s resume.
Lucas is a respected mentor by a lot of players around the league and is a former 14-year vet as a player. He was the head coach in San Antonio, Philadelphia, and Cleveland, compiling a 173-258 record. His two mid-90s Sixers teams won 24 and 18 games, and while the talent on this Sixers roster is much better it’s difficult to see management going back down that road.
Brand misfired last summer in bringing in Al Horford as a free agent, and paying a lot of money to Tobias Harris ($180 million), betting on a big “bully ball” lineup that would defend well. That roster never meshed and was swept out of the playoffs in the first round (although an injury to Simmons played a role). Brand said that was done with too much collaboration and he would take on more himself now, including the coaching search (although ownership always has a say in these matters). He cannot afford more misses, the promise of this team and the treasure trove of future picks are gone. Brand needs to nail the coaching hire and transform the roster this summer.
Whether Lue, Kidd, or Lucas fit into those plans as the next 76ers coach remains to be seen.