BOSTON – Lost in the shock of Cleveland firing Framingham, Mass. native David Blatt was the promotion of former Celtics assistant Tyronn Lue to his first head coaching job.
Boston big man Jared Sullinger was a rookie in Lue’s final season as a Celtics assistant.
While Sullinger admits he too was surprised that Cleveland fired Blatt, he feels Lue is more than ready to be a successful NBA head coach.
“I like Ty Lue,” Sullinger told CSNNE.com. “He knows a lot about the game. He helped me out big-time when he was here, as far as helping me stay calm, staying confident and just staying ready at all times.”
Despite having the best record in the Eastern Conference with wins in eight of their last 10 games, Cleveland (30-11) brass felt it was time to make a change.
Among the factors that many believe contributed to Blatt’s dismissal was the fact that the two losses Cleveland suffered recently came against Golden State and San Antonio by a combined 36 points.
The Cavs believe they are a team built to contend for an NBA title, but those two losses were a sobering reality that they’re not quite there yet.
Most would agree that Cleveland was due for a change, although it was anticipated it would be a roster shift to add at least one perimeter defender to the mix.
Instead, they decided to fire Blatt in part because of a “lack of fit with our personnel and our vision.”
Cleveland (30-110 has the best record in the Eastern Conference with wins in eight of their last 10 games.
But those two losses may have been what made the Cavaliers decide to pull the trigger and fire Blatt at this time.
Cleveland was blown out at home by the Golden State Warriors and lost by four points to San Antonio, the two teams with the top-two records in the NBA.
Those losses served as a clear message that while the Cavs may be head and shoulders above the rest of the Eastern Conference, changes of some kind have to be made if they are to take that next step and achieve the ultimate goal this season which is to win a title.
“What I see is that we need to build a collective spirit, a strength of spirit, a collective will,” Cleveland General Manager David Griffin told reporters on Friday. “Elite teams always have that, and you see it everywhere. To be truly elite, we have to buy into a set of values and principles that we believe in. That becomes our identity.”
And Lue, who is a head coach for the first time, is the guy Griffin believes can establish that identity.
"I am more than confident that he (Lue) has the pulse of our team and that he can generate the buy-in required to start to refine the habits and culture that we've yet to build," Griffin said.
Blatt leaves after a season-plus on the job with an 83-40 record. That’s a winning percentage of .675 which makes him the winningest coach in the franchise’s history.