What’s the hardest job in the NBA? According to Tyronn Lue, the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In an interview with Dave McMenamin on ESPN’s NBA Lockdown podcast, Lue detailed why he ranks his job as the toughest in the league.
“It’s the hardest job, by far,” Lue said, as transcribed by McMenamin. “It’s the hardest job. But I’ve been through a lot of tough things in my life anyway, and I just try not to listen to the outside noise — to the media and what they have to say. As long as I have the support of [Cavs general manager] David Griffin, [principal owner] Dan Gilbert, my players, the city of Cleveland, the state of Ohio, as long as I have that support, that’s all that matters.”
Lue noted that the media attention and scrutiny sets the Cleveland job apart from the others.
Lue has a point. The Cavs are the defending champions and LeBron James-led teams have reached six straight NBA Finals. Naturally, that leads to great expectations which leads to heavy scrutiny. Quite frankly, the expectations are why he’s the head coach in the first place. Remember, David Blatt took Cleveland to the NBA Finals in his rookie year and in year two, was fired in season when the team had the best record in the Eastern Conference.
With that said, it’s hard to quite buy what Lue is saying.
Think about the Golden State Warriors. In 2015, they won the NBA Championship with a 67-15 record, one of the best season’s in league history. In 2016, they posted the best regular season in league history, had Lue’s Cavs down 3-1 in the NBA Finals, and blew the lead. Golden State followed that by adding Kevin Durant. If the Warriors don’t win the 2017 NBA Finals, their season was a failure. There’s no way to spin it otherwise. That certainly offers plenty of scrutiny.
Of course, whether it’s Mike Brown or Steve Kerr, the coach of the Warriors gets to offset some of the scrutiny by having players like Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Similarly, Lue gets James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
What about the coaches that face scrutiny without the superstars?
Is Lue’s job tougher than coaching the Los Angeles Lakers? For decades, no team was more consistent year in and year out as the Lakers. Now, the players that made Los Angeles champions are long gone and the team is in a rebuilding mode. But the fans and media still remember a time — not too long ago — when the Lakers ruled the league. That brings plenty of scrutiny with it.
What about the New York Knicks? Granted, this franchise isn’t as traditionally relevant as the Lakers. But New York is the league’s biggest media market and is a basketball crazy city. Fans and media there are rightfully impatient, tired of seeing the team as a laughingstock. Doesn’t that job carry a great deal of pressure?
Certainly, Lue has a difficult job. But imagine trying to navigate a pressure cooker job without multiple star players. To put it another way, would Luke Walton or Jeff Hornacek trade places with Lue? Certainly. Would Lue want their jobs? Doubtful.
With that in mind, it’s hard to say that Lue’s job is the toughest in the league.