The Cleveland Cavaliers fired coach Tyronn Lue and named Larry Drew interim coach on Sunday.
Cleveland has started the season with six straight losses.
"My time here in Cleveland was truly special," Lue said in a statement to The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears. "I am very grateful for the dedication, sacrifice, and support of all the players on our team, the tremendous coaches I worked with and of course, our incredible fans. Lastly, deep thanks to (owner) Dan Gilbert, (former general manager) David Griffin and (general manager) Koby Altman for the opportunity over the last three years and I only wish the organization success moving forward."
Drew met with management on Sunday morning to discuss terms of a promotion to interim coach, league sources said. It is possible he'll seek a more permanent appointment. Drew was 8-1 as the interim coach a year ago when Lue was sidelined with illness. He led Atlanta to the playoffs in each of his three years as head coach of the Hawks and spent one year as Milwaukee's head coach in 2013-14.
Lue led the Cavaliers to three straight NBA Finals, including the 2016 NBA championship. He was 128-83 on the job. Cleveland's ownership and management had hoped the team would compete for a playoff spot, although it might not be realistic with the hole that the loss of LeBron James' leaving in free agency left on the roster.
This was second time James left Cleveland in free agency. The first time, the Cavaliers went from 61 wins with James in 2009-10 to 19 wins without him the next season.
"This was a very difficult decision. It is especially so, considering Coach Lue's time with us over the last four years, including four straight trips to the NBA Finals," Altman said in a statement. "We have respect and great admiration for Ty, not only as a coach, but a person. We thank him for the many ways he has contributed to our success, wish him the best and he will always be remembered for leading a very special Cavs team back against the odds to win the title in 2016. This is a different team equation, though, and one that we felt needed a different voice and approach that required this change."
Sources told ESPN's Brian Windhorst that Lue recently had a disagreement with Altman over playing veterans. Altman preferred that Kyle Korver and JR Smith be taken out of the rotation to give time to younger players. After one game in which they didn't play, Lue put both back in the rotation without consulting Altman.
Gilbert has also encouraged more playing time for rookie Collin Sexton, sources told Windhorst. Sexton is averaging just 23.5 minutes per game.
Lue is still owed roughly $15 million on the contract he signed in 2016 after the team won the title, sources said.
Now with the Lakers, James thanked Lue on Twitter on Sunday.
T Lue thanks for the memories and more importantly our partnership bringing a 🏆 to that deserved city/fan base. U know how to find me 🙏🏾— LeBron James (@KingJames) October 28, 2018
Cavaliers forward Kevin Love also gave a shout out to Lue on social media.
"You helped me see the big picture. Life changing experiences and teaching points," Love posted on Instagram. "Nothing but love and admiration. Know we will work towards something greater together again. THANK YOU."
LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers expressed anger at the move while applauding how Lue handled it.
"I think it's awful," Rivers said before the Clippers' game Sunday. "I think what it shows you is, you know -- go to the Finals, win it. Go to the Finals three years in a row, and then you come back and get fired. You know, it makes no sense. It's the ugly part of our game."
Lue played for Rivers in Orlando in 2003 and coached under him in Boston (2009-2013) and Los Angeles (2013-2014) before joining Cleveland's coaching staff in 2014.
"We talked for a long time," Rivers said. "He's really disappointed. But he has a lot to be proud of. He did a heck of a job in extreme circumstances, and I'm probably no prouder than anybody that's played for me and then coached under me than Ty Lue.
"So it's -- it makes you so angry when you see stuff like that, but there's nothing you can do about it," Rivers added. "And I thought he handled it the way -- he's better than me. He handled it with just amazing class. You know, thanked everybody. He's better than me."
Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who faced Lue in the NBA Finals four straight times, said that all coaches "are completely reliant on our talent," and the loss of James put Lue in a tough spot.
"I know from coaching against him in the Finals several years in a row, he's good," Kerr said of Lue. "He knows what he's doing, he's well prepared every night. And if he wants another shot, he'll get one. It's always sad when you see a fellow coach get the ax like that this early in the season."
The Cavaliers and Drew are still negotiating terms on the length of his interim coaching status, league sources told ESPN. Drew has been reluctant so far to commit to coaching the rest of the regular season without some kind of a contractual agreement that extends beyond 2018-19, league sources said. Drew will run practices and coach the team in the short term, sources said. His contract as the associate head coach expires at the end of the season.
When Lue replaced David Blatt as Cavaliers coach in the 2015-16 season, he was given a deal beyond the balance of that season, and he negotiated a long-term extension after winning a title that spring.
Information from ESPN's Nick Friedell and Law Murray was used in this report.