Tyronn Lue was at one point considered favorite to become 76ers coach.
Why did Lue (who wound up getting the Clippers job) fall from contention?
Lue has a relationship with LeBron James from coaching the now-Lakers superstar with the Cavaliers. LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, says LeBron considers Paul’s other clients to be family. Paul also represents 76ers star Ben Simmons.
Connect the dots, and… they don’t lead to Joel Embiid.
But sources across the NBA said the Sixers’ other star, Joel Embiid, ultimately opposed Lue as coach for X’s and O’s reasons and for the optics of Simmons’ “guy” getting the job.
Embiid didn’t directly deny that reporting, but he gave a long response, sharing his thoughts on his role in the organization and the Sixers’ coaching search.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “Like I’ve said all year, you’ve got to control what you can. I don’t really know. I just try to come in every single day and do my job, and these guys put a lot of trust in me to make it happen. Those types of decisions, I’m not a GM, I’m not in the front office. That has nothing to do with me. And I’ve always told them, they’ve got to do whatever is best for the team.
“If they thought Doc was the right coach for us, then I trust them. If they didn’t think any of the other candidates were the right choice for us, then I trust them. I’m sure they did the background check. So that’s not something I can have control of; I’m not in the front office. I’m just a player. I just try to come in every single day and do the best job that I can with whatever I have.
“Obviously, this summer we made a lot of changes. All I’ll say is that we had a lot of great candidates; all of them are great. Ty has won a championship. I think we were looking at — looking at the reports — Mike D’Antoni, who was an assistant coach with us. And then Doc came in the picture. I thought the choice they made, you could’ve gone either way. Either of them would’ve been great for this team. The owners and (general manager Elton Brand) … they went with Doc. I thought it was a great choice. That’s all I’ll say, but reports are going to be reports. I can only control what I can.”
Embiid and Simmons clearly get along well enough. The 76ers have been good with those two.
But Embiid and Simmons are young stars still trying to establish their places in the league. Some friction is to be expected. I suspect each views himself as as Philadelphia’s franchise player – or at least wants to be treated as such.
Lue might have had a tough time winning over Embiid. Accurate or not, perception can matter. Though Embiid is correct that the coaching hire was an ownership/management decision, the higher-ups might have considered Embiid’s outlook on candidates.
Rivers has the cachet to demand respect from both Embiid and Simmons. That’s a key reason Rivers was the right hire.