Larry Drew Gets His Security, Agreeing to New Deal With Cavaliers

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Larry Drew no longer has to worry about being the “voice” of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the acting coach, or any other atypical distinction. He will simply be their head coach, the team announced Monday.

ESPN reported that Drew’s deal to become head coach extended through the end of this season and included a partial guarantee for 2019-20.

“We are pleased to have reached this agreement with Coach Drew to continue leading the team on the court,” Koby Altman, Cleveland’s general manager, said in a statement. “He brings important experience and many qualities that we expect to translate well with our team as the head coach.”

Drew, who took over on a temporary basis after the Cavaliers fired Tyronn Lue on Oct. 29, initially took issue with the nomenclature of his role — a protest that was largely about his desire to renegotiate his contract — but even with that settled he still faces the difficult task of getting the team back on track in the wake of LeBron James’s having left via free agency. The team started 0-6 under Lue, leading to the championship-winning coach’s dismissal, and had gone 1-2 under Drew entering Monday’s game against Orlando.

Drew, who has cited the team’s transition defense as its biggest weakness, told reporters before Monday’s game that it will take some time to right the ship.

“Tonight’s game, chances are we’re going to make the same mistakes we made our last game,” Drew said. “We’re going to have to keep showing them on film, we will keep practicing and going through it. It’s just not going to happen overnight.”

Complicating matters is the extended absence of Kevin Love, the team’s most prominent player left from their four-year run of Eastern Conference championships. Love was averaging 19 points, 13.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists a game to start the season, but he has been out since he injured his toe in a loss to the Nets on Oct. 24. The injury required surgery, and he will not be re-evaluated for a return for another six weeks.

Drew, 60, has been with the Cavaliers since 2014, serving as an assistant coach for two years — including during the team’s championship run in the 2015-16 season — before being promoted to associate head coach in 2016-17. He coached the team to an 8-1 record during a medical absence by Lue last year and had previously been a head coach in Atlanta, where he coached the Hawks to a 128-102 record in three seasons, and Milwaukee, where he coached the Bucks to a 15-67 record in 2013-14.

While Drew’s permanent promotion seemed rather likely following Lue’s dismissal, it had been a fairly awkward arrangement thus far. James, now with the Los Angeles Lakers, expressed his dismay from afar, believing Lue had not been given sufficient leeway to try to rebuild the team. Drew also initially rejected the label of “interim” coach, which the team had given him. Drew said at the time of the change that he was “very disappointed” the team had yet to restructure his contract and had hoped for guarantees before taking the helm of a rebuilding team.

Now that he has some security in the role, Drew, who played 10 years in the N.B.A. before transitioning to coaching for the 1992-93 season, has a chance to make the team his own.

Love, for one, heartily endorsed the initial promotion after Lue’s firing, pointing out that Drew had done a superb job of leading the team when Lue was out last year.

“I love what L.D. does,” Love said. “I love the energy he brings, how specific he is in what he does, and he’s been around this league, what, 37, 38 years, so I’m excited for that.”

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