LINCOLN, Neb. — February gets better by the day for Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue.
On Wednesday, the Cavaliers, who lost eight of 15 games in January, started the month with an impressive win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. On Thursday night, Lue was at Nebraska to have his Cornhuskers’ jersey retired.
“Biggest thing was to come up with a win last night to make this night even better,” Lue said. “Just a special honor to be here.”
Lue was joined by his parents and about 20 other family members. He was honored during a ceremony at halftime of the Huskers’ game against Michigan State.
He thanked athletic director Shawn Eichorst, associate athletic director Marc Boehm and coach Tim Miles for putting the wheels in motion to retire his jersey.
Lue played for the Huskers from 1995-98 under Danny Nee and said Nebraska was “where I grew as a man and became who I am today.”
Lue said he’s impressed with the facilities upgrades in recent years and the team’s new venue, Pinnacle Bank Arena. He said he’s eager to help Miles in any way needed to help build the program.
Lue, who came to Nebraska from Mexico, Mo., twice was named to the All-Big 12 first team before declaring for the NBA Draft after his junior season. He played on the 1996 team that won the NIT and on the 1998 team that went to the NCAA Tournament. He remains among the top 10 Nebraska players in career points, assists and steals.
“The biggest moment for me was when we won the NIT championship when things didn’t look good,” Lue said. “When you come together as a team, with the talent we had, we could make great things happen.”
The Denver Nuggets drafted Lue in the first round, and he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers and was on two championship teams. He played 11 seasons on seven NBA teams and was an assistant with two before joining Cleveland as associate head coach in 2014. He was promoted to head coach in January 2016, and the Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 series deficit to win the NBA championship.
Lue said he didn’t plan on getting into coaching before retiring as a player in 2009.
“Once your career is over and all you know and love is basketball, what’s the next step?” said Lue, whose first job was as an assistant under Doc Rivers. “I didn’t think I would ever coach. It’s tough to deal with — especially on the NBA level — all the different egos and personalities and things like that. If you’re a good person and you treat people fair and the right way, things work out.”
Nebraska announced in September that Lue’s jersey would be retired. It will hang in the north rafters of Pinnacle Bank Arena next to the jerseys of Stuart Lantz, Dave Hoppen and Eric Piatkowski. His number, 10, will not be retired.
“My number comes from my uncle, Jay Graves, who I idolized my whole life,” Lue said. “He wore No. 10 in high school, so I grew up idolizing him, so I wanted to wear No. 10. I’ve been on seven NBA teams and was blessed to have No. 10 my whole life.”