AUBURN HILLS (AP) – The Detroit Pistons fired coach John Kuester on Sunday, four days after Tom Gores completed an agreement to purchase the team from Karen Davidson.
Kuester was 57-107 over two years with Detroit, which failed to make the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time since missing it three straight times from 1993-95. This past season was a dreary one, with the proud franchise making more news for internal squabbling than any on-court accomplishments.
“Decisions like this are difficult to make,” team president Joe Dumars said. “I want to thank John for his hard work and dedication to the organization over the last two years, however, at this time we have decided to make a change.”
Detroit won its third championship in 2004, part of a six-year streak in which the team reached at least the conference finals, but the Pistons went 27-55 in 2009-10 and 30-52 this past season.
Empty seats were common at home games, and that, coupled with feuding between coaches and players, only added to a sense of gloom.
Kuester was hired in 2009 after two seasons as an assistant with Cleveland. He was also a member of Larry Brown’s championship-winning staff in 2004 with the Pistons, but his familiarity with at least some of the players was of little help as the team began to look increasingly dysfunctional late in his tenure. Kuester and Richard Hamilton had a falling out that sent the veteran to the bench for most of a seven-week stretch. The two appeared to be on better terms toward the end, but there was plenty of other drama.
The low point was probably Feb. 25 in Philadelphia. Seven players missed at least part of a team shootaround, and Kuester played only the remaining six that night in a blowout loss to the 76ers.
Remarkably, Detroit actually improved by three games from Kuester’s first season, but that wasn’t nearly enough to save his job. His firing seemed appeared certain, and sure enough, it happened almost immediately after Gores officially took control of the team.
The new coach could take over a significantly different roster next season. Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace are the last links to the 2004 NBA title team, and all could be gone by the time the Pistons suit up again.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)