Cleveland Cavaliers second-year head coach Tyronn Lue has a roster loaded with three All-Star-caliber players and arguably the best player in the world, but he believes coaching the defending champion Cavaliers is the toughest challenge in the league.
Lue said on an ESPN podcast earlier this week that his job is the toughest in the NBA "by far." On Wednesday's episode of Undisputed, Skip Bayless agreed, and argued that LeBron James is the single toughest athlete to coach in any sport.
Tyronn Lue: My job is the hardest in the NBA
“It’s the hardest job, by far. It’s the hardest job, but you know, I’ve been through a lot of tough things in my life anyway. I just try not to listen to the outside noise, to the media and what they have to say.
I don’t like the media attention, that’s why this job is just so tough. Because, you know, you’re out in front all the time. Whatever you say - if you say one wrong thing, especially leading this team, it goes viral. It’s a big deal. That’s why in the huddles, a lot of the time we’re mic’d up, I never say anything. When the camera comes over there and you’ve got to talk to the team… our team, they don’t want to hear that anyway.
i think the toughest thing, for me, is I didn’t have a chance to grow as a coach. I just got thrown right in the fire, not knowing how I wanted to coach. I had a thought of what I wanted to do as a coach, but when you’re coaching LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love … the pressures of winning a championship, it’s different.”
Ty Lue is in a high-risk, low-reward position
“It’s the hardest job in the NBA, and it’s not because of the last guys he mentioned -- Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. It’s because you coach LeBron James. You coach a transcendent player.
You’re never going to get the credit that you deserve for winning, but you’re going to get the lion’s share of the blame when you lose a ballgame.
This is what Ty Lue was up against, Skip. The coach that he replaced, in his first year he took them to the NBA Finals. Minus Kyrie, minus Kevin Love, you lost 4-2. The guy gets fired in his second season with a 30-11 record, David Blatt.”
David RichardDavid Richard-USA TODAY Sports
The expectations couldn't be higher
“Now Ty Lue is in, so what’s the expectations for Ty Lue? The coach that you replaced just took a team to the NBA Finals. You still have the best player on the planet on your roster. A transcendent [player], a Mount Rushmore [player], the King of Akron.
Anything less than a title and you’re a bum. Let me ask you this: How much credit does Tony Dungy, Jim Caldwell, John Fox get for Peyton Manning? Peyton’s the coach, he’s calling all the plays, he’s the offensive coordinator. So you never get the credit that you rightfully deserve.
But when you lose … ‘how do you lose with Peyton Manning?’ That’s what you’re up against, Skip.”
Mark J. RebilasMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
It's especially tough for basketball coaches given the influence of elite players
“LeBron makes it doubly difficult. You know this, you’ve been around the game long enough. [In basketball], a star player can change the fortunes of an entire team. Not only can he play offense, he can play defense. He can influence so many things on the court. So you have to be real, real easy with how you talk to him, what you say to him, what you say about him publicly, what you say to him in front of the team -- because think about this. Magic Johnson won a title in his rookie year. He and Paul Westhead butted heads. OK, now Pat Riley gets the job.
Pat Riley, you’re replacing a guy that won an NBA title with Magic Johnson. What’s the expectation? You better win a bunch of them.
… If Albert Einstein shows up, how are you going to teach Albert Einstein? That man’s got a 200 IQ. How are you going to talk to LeBron James? With four MVPs, 11 first-team All-NBA, six consecutive Finals. What do you tell him, how do you coach that?”
David RichardUSA TODAY Sports
LeBron is the toughest player to coach in sports
“I’m with you on your point, and your conclusion. This is the toughest coaching job, I think, in all of sports -- but I’m going to go a level deeper. I think LeBron is the most difficult player to “coach.” And I put quotes around the coach, because I still think he is the co-head coach of this team. As much as I respect him as a player… in some ways, he is a coaches’ dream, because he is the best passer in basketball. And he is a willing passer on most nights. Most coaches would say ‘thank you God, I’ve got a guy, I’ve got the best scorer on my team when he puts his mind to it [who] is also the most willing passer on the court.’
But off the court, in the locker room, in front of the media, LeBron is the King of Drama.
He is a drama king, because to me, he is the biggest diva in all of sports. You can say he’s earned the right to be that diva, but he just is. Because with LeBron -- this is what I actually love about him for the job we do -- every night it’s a new thing with him. It’s a new issue. He’s got some issue with some thing or somebody.
And it’s fun for me to watch it. He has a lot to say, he’s very socially conscious, but because of that package that you’re dealing with it’s hard on the “coach.” Because, as you know, the media is going to run straight to the coach and say ‘LeBron’s got a problem with x, y and z. What do you think, coach? Did you hear this?’”
Bob DonnanBob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Coaching LeBron presents unique challenges night after night
“Every night it’s ‘did you hear this?’ And Ty Lue has become masterful at deflecting, at dodging -- and at some times, at some points you have to out and out lie about it. Because you have no choice, or you’re going to get caught, so to speak, red-handed, and you’re going to back into something that you can’t back out of.
I believe LeBron fired the previous coach. He was openly disrespectful to David Blatt because LeBron would just take himself out of games and put himself into games without looking at the coach. I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
Bob DonnanBob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Ty Lue always has to be the smartest guy in the room, or he'll lose LeBron's respect
“You keep saying coaching LeBron is a coaches’ dream…”
Skip Bayless: “On the floor.”
Shannon Sharpe: “But he’s also a coach's nightmare. Because you know he knows everything that you know.”
Skip Bayless: “Highest IQ in the game.”
Shannon Sharpe: “When people ask you, ‘what’s the most difficult thing - take it in my sport, football - about coaching a Tom Brady, a Peyton Manning or a Drew Brees?’ He said ‘because you can’t bull-jive them. If they ask you something, you need to know the answers. And you need to tell them why it is this -- because if you can’t, they’re going to have a problem with you. They expect you to know everything they know, and a little more. They expect you to have an answer for every question.”