INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — After an emotional day and restless night, Larry Drew went back to work.
He organized practice, met with stunned players still reeling from Tyronn Lue’s firing and put the Cleveland Cavaliers through drills as they prepared for Tuesday’s game.
But after walking off the floor, Drew, the team’s top assistant coach under Lue for the past two years, wanted to make something clear.
“I’m not the interim coach,” he said emphatically. “I’m the voice right now.”
So much for Cleveland’s transition game.
Drew added a surprising wrinkle to Lue’s dismissal on Monday by saying he’s not ready to commit to the Cavaliers in the long term until he gets a new contract. Drew said his agent, Andy Miller, has been with talks with the team about restructuring his deal. Drew is under contract through this season.
“I’m sure you guys are aware that there are some talks that are going on,” Drew told reporters. “I don’t know if any type of agreement or settlement will be made. I am prepared either way. I’ll continue to do my job, but right now there’s not been any type of agreement.”
Drew said he plans to coach the team Tuesday night against Atlanta, but after that, nothing is definitive.
He was asked if “acting” coach was a more fitting title.
“I guess that would be more accurate, more consistent,” he said.
General manager Koby Altman fired Lue, who in 2016 became the only coach to win a pro sports championship in Cleveland since 1964, on Sunday because he felt the team was underachieving. The Cavaliers are 0-6 in their first season since three-time champion LeBron James left them for the second time as a free agent.
They had hoped to remain competitive while developing young players like rookie guard Collin Sexton. But the plan wasn’t working with Lue, forcing Altman to make a difficult decision.
“The challenge of this year was we had a mix of veterans and young guys and that’s a complex situation that’s difficult,” Altman said. “It didn’t come together the way we envisioned and we just didn’t think coach Lue was the right fit for this group. We wanted to go in a different direction, a different coach and a different voice.”
Enter Drew, who went 8-1 while filling in last season when Lue was dealing with health issues.
Drew understands what the Cavs are up against and he’s prepared to take it on.
“It’s not a very complicated situation,” he said. “It’s obvious this team is going in a different direction with the group that we do have and with the decisions that have been made with the organization. I would like to be part of it long term, to be perfectly honest. I’ve been through the rebuilding process as a player and as a coach and I feel I know what it takes. Certainly when you talk about rebuilding, it’s not an easy thing to do. It’s usually something that takes a little time.
“If it’s going to take some time, I’d like to be part of that. I made the organization pretty aware of that, that this is something that’s not going to happen overnight. In order to be a part of that, I feel that it’s going to have to be something done with a little bit more security.”
Altman said the Cavaliers feel fortunate to have someone with Drew’s experience as a possibility to lead the team through the remainder of a challenging season. Altman thought the players responded well to Drew during their first practice together.
Drew went 143-169 in four seasons as an NBA coach. He was fired after going 15-67 with Milwaukee in 2013-14.
Lue, who played for Drew, was the first one to call his former coach after he was let go by the Bucks. Drew has never forgotten that gesture and they formed a tight friendship.
Drew spent part of Sunday at Lue’s home.
“I mean the job that he did here has been unbelievable,” Drew said. “I don’t think he gets enough credit for what he’s done. But before I left yesterday I told him how much I appreciated him, and I know he’s going to be OK. He’s still going to be Ty, though. Ty’s going to be Ty. But I’m going to miss him.”
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