Clippers coach Doc Rivers knows Tyronn Lue, one of his assistants, is going to be a hot commodity this offseason. Heck, Lue already is linked to jobs from Brooklyn to Philadelphia to New Orleans.
And Rivers is glad.
Even as his Clippers braced to face the Nuggets in the NBA’s Western Conference semifinals beginning Thursday, Rivers sounds like he’s rooting for Lue, and happy his assistant’s name is at the top of the wish lists for the Nets. And 76ers. And whoever else.
“He’s been great. He’s been great. I’m glad it is. He deserves it,” Rivers said Wednesday via Zoom. “It’s a joke that he’s not a head coach, but it’s to my advantage that he’s not.”
Lue seems likely to become a head coach again.
Nets interim coach Jacque Vaughn has already interviewed for the job and left ownership “impressed,” according to the Athletic. The Post has reported Vaughn will get every opportunity to win the job.
But Lue — who won the 2016 title in Cleveland with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving — is also a perceived favorite for the Nets job. There’s also mutual interest with the 76ers according to the Philadelphia Inquirer and Sports Illustrated. When asked by The Post, Rivers said he hasn’t stood in the way of assistants interviewing during the playoffs, and has encouraged Lue to do so.
“I had the same situation in Boston with [Tom] Thibodeau,” Rivers said. “Two years in a row he was mentioned with every job. The first year he turned most of them down, and then the second year he took it. I remember Tom, we were in the finals with the Lakers, I allowed him to do an interview.
“I don’t think you should ever stand in someone’s way No. 1, and I think guys can handle doing both. Tibbs did, and so is Ty Lue. He’s been great.”
It’s uncertain whether the Nets already have requested permission to speak with Lue. But the 43-year-old is so coveted because not only has he proven he can win (three Finals in less than three seasons as Cavaliers coach), but also he has shown he can handle stars. With Irving and Kevin Durant in Brooklyn, that’s a necessary skill.
After taking over in Cleveland midseason in 2015-16, Lue earned the respect of both James and Irving. While James regularly had changed previous coach David Blatt’s play calls (including during the 2015 playoffs), Lue commanded the respect Blatt never could.
On one occasion he told James in the huddle to “shut the [hell] up. I got this.” And in Game 7 of that 2016 Finals, he got on James about his body language, told him his legacy was on the line, tweaked and prodded and did whatever was needed.
Between James’ huge series and Irving’s Game 7 winner, the Cavaliers stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to upset the Warriors.
But even after getting fired following a slow start in 2018-19, Lue bet on himself. He has spent this season as Rivers’ assistant again, and now he’s set to cash in, reportedly seeking up to $7 million annually.
“He’s been phenomenal on my staff,” Rivers said. “It’s amazing getting him after being a coach once and now he’s your assistant again. And the difference in him, people don’t understand that little 2 feet next step [to the head coach chair], you change. Ty’s come back, he’s an amazing coach.
“He’s been absolutely [great]. He’s just a wonderful guy to be around. His IQ, his feel, he’s made this year really enjoyable for me.”
The Nets’ Joe Harris, who played for Lue in Cleveland, told The Post he was an “excellent” coach. And Kevin Love — the third star on that Cavaliers team — praised him on JJ Redick’s podcast.
“Ty Lue is great,” Love said. “It’s like ‘OK, we’re an underachieving regular-season team.’ But when it came time for the playoffs, he was like ‘I got this.’ Everything he set up for us. He just has a brilliant mind for his schemes and his X’s and O’s and everything that he did.”