Gregory Smith/Globe Staff Photo
Tyronn Lue had already been in the league five years and won a pair of championship rings with the Lakers when he arrived in Orlando in 2003, Doc Rivers’ last season as head coach of the Magic.
Rivers only lasted 11 games as head coach that season, but point guard-to-point guard he and Lue saw things the same way.
Two years ago, when Rivers was winning a championship in Boston and Lue was a veteran reserve with the Magic, Rivers had talked to Lue.
“There’s guys you coach all the time that you say, ‘He’ll be a coach.’ And Ty Lue was on the top of that list,” Rivers said. “I told him when you’re ready to stop trying to play basketball and you want to come sit on the bench and join us, we’ll create it,” Rivers said. “No matter how many coaches we have, I’ll get you a job.”
Lue took him up on the offer, joining Rivers’ staff as director of basketball development. He was at practice today in Waltham. He’ll be Rivers’ fifth assistant.
Doc Rivers has a habit of telling his former players they should come coach for him. After that season in Orlando, Lue bounced around between Houston, Atlanta, Dallas and Milwaukee, ultimately landing back in Orlando last season, on the same roster that beat the Celtics in the playoffs.
Rivers said, “I noticed that he hadn’t been signed so I basically asked him … We’ve been very close. He’s a terrific guy in the locker room. Just a solid good character guy.”
Lue, who averaged 8.5 points per game in 11 NBA seasons, will be to the guards what assistant coach Clifford Ray is to the big men. Word going into training camp was that the Celtics were interested in another point guard, and came close to inviting Dan Dickau, but the Celtics stressed that the Lue, 32, would be just a coach and that there were no Sam Cassell possibilities.
Realizing how many ex-players he’s invited to join his staff, Rivers did joke, “If I coach long enough, I’m going to have 40 guys on my bench, because I tell all my guys that.”
Lue is close friends with Celtics star Kevin Garnett. He played a significant part in convincing Garnett to accept a trade from Minnesota before the 2007-08 season.
In an August 5, 2007 story about how the Garnett-to-Boston deal came to be, the Globe's Shira Springer talked to Lue, then with the Atlanta Hawks, about his role in selling Garnett on the Celtics:
. . . Garnett sought the counsel of his best friends, Detroit's Chauncey Billups and Atlanta's Tyronn Lue . . . The trio discussed the teams interested in Garnett -- Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, the Lakers, and Phoenix -- and which presented the best scenario for the 10-time All-Star. Billups and Lue helped convince Garnett that Boston would be a good place to play, recognizing what the power forward could add to a mix that already included Pierce and Allen. Also, Lue endorsed Doc Rivers as a coach, having played briefly for him in Orlando at the start of the 2003-04 season.
"I talked to KG and it was tough at first because he's so loyal to Minnesota, his family, friends, and the fans," said Lue. "All he knew was Minnesota for the last 12 years. I thought Boston would be a great situation, a perfect situation with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. I thought automatically they'd be in the Eastern Conference finals with KG. He thought about it and asked, 'You think so?' I said, 'Yeah.'
"Then, Chauncey came out and said, 'You have to take the best thing for you and that's playing in Boston, even though we'd be in the same conference and play four times a year.' We definitely convinced him to choose Boston because two great players were already in place. Adding KG and being in the Eastern Conference, it'd be easier to win.
"Then, KG asked me, 'What about the city?' I said, 'You don't go out anyway, so it doesn't matter. You don't go out of the house. You could play in Alaska.' He's like, 'Yeah, you're right.' "