For Larry Drew, it’s time to forget about his contract for next year, time to forget about the players he doesn’t have or the friend in Tyronn Lue who got fired at the start of the season.
Instead, Drew has to take the Cavaliers on hand and convince them they have a coach who believes in them — all while keeping the team in position to land a quality draft pick.
Those things should be Drew’s overwhelming concerns as the Cavs (12-46) embark on the season’s final 24 games.
Drew has done a nice job with the odds stacked against him. There’s never any questioning of the rotation. Most games, the Cavs play determined basketball. He has the players’ respect and he toes the fine line of yelling and being overly friendly well. He teaches the X’s and O’s without boring the team to tears.
Drew has also proven he can coach any type of team. Last year, he guided LeBron James and the Cavs to a 9-1 record in Lue’s absence. James admired Drew’s approach and enjoyed playing for him, and it’s not often you say that about a super-duper star and his coach.
Now, it’s an entirely different situation. No one cares if Drew and the Cavs win games. In fact, those with both eyes on the lottery would prefer they don’t. Mostly, the front office is hoping Drew and his staff can deliver three things:
1. Develop the young players (Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, and so on).
2. Continue to audition the new guys (Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss, Nik Stauskas).
3. Keep the team playing hard and keep the culture upbeat in spite of all the losing.
Drew can be credited with doing all of those things so far. He also knows he can continue to do them and not have a job next season — or at least not a job in Cleveland.
Drew, 60, is laid back with both the players and media, and in his dealings with management. He is brutally honest without ever coming across as harsh. He has seen everything the league has to offer, but humble enough to never mention it.
He was fired as coach of the Atlanta Hawks (2010-13) then got an extraordinarily raw deal with the Milwaukee Bucks at the end of the 2013-14 season. That’s when the Bucks hired Jason Kidd away from the Brooklyn Nets, a coaching change that started as a secret and always seemed a little sketchy.
Drew never said a word and joined then-Cavs coach David Blatt’s staff as an assistant. Shortly after that, Drew won a championship as a member of Lue’s staff.
But that feels like decades ago, as James and Kyrie Irving left the Cavs in the dust. Today, the mission is the opposite of what it was last year at this time.
The Cavs are developing, working in Kevin Love as he returns from injury, and losing — a lot. The idea is to do all that while avoiding a toxic locker room. It’s a plan that has actually worked well. The Cavs are devoid of drama and their coach is a huge reason why.
Still, the Cavs are undoubtedly eyeing coaching candidates for the franchise moving forward. The rumors of potential Drew replacements will begin as soon as the season ends, perhaps before that.
It’s not known if Drew will even want the job next year. Leading a team that will spend at least the next year or two finding its way can be utterly exhausting. Usually, coaches in Drew’s situation are long gone when the team gets good again.
Drew can’t worry about any of it, and you can be sure he won’t. He has two months to stick to the plan and stick to getting the Cavs to compete and remain at peace, regardless of the results.
That is all Drew can do.