Tyronn Lue yet to sign new contract since taking over as Cavs coach

ByDave McMenamin ESPN logo
Saturday, April 30, 2016

CLEVELAND -- As the Cavaliers prepare to face the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the playoffs, head coach Tyronn Lue continues to guide the team without having signed a new contract since he took over for David Blatt, multiple sources said this week.

Lue, 38, was promoted from associate head coach to Blatt's successor on Jan. 22, with Cleveland general manager David Griffin parting ways with Blatt despite the team's conference-best 30-11 record at the time. Even without a new contract, Lue never had an interim title attached to his position.

Lue has led Cleveland to a 27-14 mark in the second half of the season and a 4-0 sweep of the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the playoffs.

Lue was already the league's top-paid assistant coach when he was added to Blatt's staff in the summer of 2014 with a four-year deal worth a total of $6.5 million. The Cavs and Lue's representatives came to a verbal agreement on a renegotiated deal that would pay him $3 million prorated for 2015-16 and $3 million next season, with a team option for a third year at $3.5 million with a buyout, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported in January.

There were no performance standards or stipulations for Lue to meet to keep the verbal agreement valid after the season, a source familiar with the negotiations said.

According to a source close to Lue, he fully expects to be the head coach of the Cavs next season and beyond, no matter what happens the remainder of the postseason. The source said Lue currently has no interest in any of the head-coaching vacancies around the league in Houston, New York and Sacramento.

The Cavs are on the same page, a separate source told ESPN.com, and fully intend to honor their verbal agreement by finalizing a contract for Lue this summer that will keep him as Cleveland's coach.

Despite not inking an augmented contract since becoming the Cavs' head coach, Lue is signed under his old deal through the 2016-17 season. That means that even if Lue had interest in another job, the Cavs would have to grant him permission to interview, which would be unheard of for a head coach to do while he leads his team into the conference semifinals.

Lue's reasoning for delaying an official agreement was respect and deference to Blatt, according to multiple sources. Lue felt indebted to Blatt for the opportunity to be his defensive coordinator and did not want there to be a perception that he was benefiting with a multimillion dollar raise at Blatt's expense.

Before coaching his first game against Chicago after the personnel shuffle, Lue suggested that Blatt should still coach the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game, and just this week, Lue endorsed Blatt for the Knicks' vacancy.

"He definitely deserves another chance," Lue said. "I thought Coach Blatt did a great and phenomenal job here. He taught me a lot. Just being friends with him and getting a chance to understand him was great for me. I know a lot of guys around here, we talked about it the other day, they miss him and his presence. I would just like to just keep, stay in contact with him. Hopefully, he gets another job in this league because he deserves it."

While Lue's record at the helm has been virtually identical to Blatt's, he has received considerably more support from his players, most notablyLeBron James.

"He's our coach, and we love him," James said a few days before the Cavs opened the playoffs against Detroit. "We trust the system that he's put in. We trust the process that he's put in."

The $3.2 million average annual salary reportedly agreed upon by Lue's representatives and the Cavs would put Lue among the bottom half of the league's coaches, in terms of compensation, despite the Cavs' having the second-highest payroll in league history. Including luxury tax considerations, the payroll is expected to cost Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert north of $150 million.