CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers‘ next coach will inherit a better situation than the one Larry Drew was handed.
Drew and the Cavs parted ways Thursday after a challenging, 19-win season that followed LeBron James leaving for Los Angeles and included a rash of injuries to a young roster.
Although expected, Drew’s departure creates more work for a franchise that will sit out the NBA playoffs this season following a four-year run in the NBA Finals with James.
Drew, 61, met with general manager Koby Altman, and the two decided it was best for them to go in separate directions. Altman said in a release that Drew “respectfully declined to participate in the search process and will not be returning to coach the Cavaliers.”
The Cavs tied for the league’s second-worst record with Phoenix, but Drew kept his team playing hard until the end. He received praise from many of his players, including All-Star forward Kevin Love, who was limited to just 22 games following toe surgery.
“We have great respect and appreciation for Larry and the job that he did as the head coach of the Cavaliers for nearly the entire 2018-19 campaign,” Altman said in a release. “He brought professionalism, class and steady leadership both this past season and [the] prior four years. All of us in Cleveland wish Larry nothing but the best going forward.”
Altman will embark on a search for Cleveland’s fifth coach since 2013. The Cavs will consider college coaches, NBA assistants and former head coaches to continue the rebuild Drew started.
Altman is scheduled to outline some of his plans during a news conference Friday at the team’s facility in Independence, Ohio.
The Cavs job is enticing on several fronts. Owner Dan Gilbert has displayed a willingness to spend, and Cleveland could land one of the top college prospects depending on how things go in next month’s draft lottery.
Drew took over when Tyronn Lue, who led the Cavs to a title in 2016, was fired Oct. 28 following an 0-6 start. Drew spent three seasons with the Cavs, joining Lue’s staff for the championship season.
When he replaced Lue, Drew, who previously coached in Atlanta and Milwaukee, knew the Cavs might go in another direction at some point and asked the team to restructure his contract, which it did.
Drew’s steadying influence helped the Cavs endure injuries that led him to use a league-high 32 different lineups. He also helped in the development of rookie point guard Collin Sexton, who finished strong after a slow start and appears to be a building block for the future.
“I want to thank Dan Gilbert, Koby Altman, the entire organization and especially our fans, for what has been a very special and rewarding time here in Cleveland,” Drew said. “Koby and I had a good discussion following the season and have both decided that the best decision for each of us was that I would not return to coach the team. I am very proud of what we accomplished over the last several years together and will always cherish our championship.
“I also want to commend our players this season for the bond that they established, the way they approached their jobs and the hard work and growth they had every day. I am very proud of them and wish them the best as they continue to develop for the future.”