Villanueva Hopes New Coach Can Relate To Players
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ROYAL OAK, Mich. (AP) – Charlie Villanueva and Ben Wallace agree on the most important task for the next coach of the Detroit Pistons.
“Communication,” Villanueva said. “Have somebody who can communicate with their players.”
Villanueva teamed up with Detroit Lions wide receiver Derrick Williams to host a celebrity softball game Saturday, with the proceeds benefiting foundations the two have worked with. It’s been about a week since the Pistons fired John Kuester, and as the team searches for a replacement, both Villanueva and Wallace took brief breaks from softball to offer thoughts on the next coach.
“Just somebody who can relate and communicate with the guys – can make his point and stick to it,” Wallace said.
The 36-year-old Wallace, who has been considering retirement, said he might in fact keep playing.
“I’m leaning more towards coming back,” Wallace said. “It’s just a matter of getting myself healthy and getting ready to play.”
Aside from the possibility of an NBA lockout, the Pistons face more uncertainty than most teams. New owner Tom Gores officially took over less than two weeks ago and left team president Joe Dumars in place to head the rebuilding effort. Detroit went 30-52 last season amid feuding between coaches and players.
Villanueva was asked about a few potential candidates to replace Kuester, such as Milwaukee Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson, former Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Woodson, Boston Celtics assistant Lawrence Frank and Minnesota Timberwolves assistant Bill Laimbeer, the former Detroit player.
“Those are all good guys, good candidates,” Villanueva said. “I think Joe and Gores are going to make a good decision. We leave it up to them.”
The low point last season 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. Villanueva – one of the six who played that night – said Saturday there was plenty of blame to go around last season.
“It’s all of our faults. A lot of things went wrong,” Villanueva said. “It’s over now. That’s behind us. I want to wish Kuester well, and now we’re looking forward.”
Sampson has been an assistant to Bucks coach Scott Skiles since May 2008. Sampson joined Skiles’ staff after his tenure as the head coach at Indiana University ended in scandal. Sampson resigned as the Hoosiers’ coach in February 2008 after an NCAA report accused him of major rules violations.
Woodson was an assistant for Larry Brown when the Pistons won the 2004 NBA title – on a staff that also included Kuester. Wallace played for that team.
“I think Mike would do a great job. I think he did a great job with Atlanta,” Wallace said. “I think he took those guys as far as they were ready to go. I think he’d be a great fit for us.”
Frank has also been a head coach in the NBA before, with the New Jersey Nets. Laimbeer, who won NBA titles as a player in 1989 and 1990 with the Pistons, coached the WNBA’s Detroit Shock to three championships before joining the Timberwolves.
Former Piston Rick Mahorn, who played with Laimbeer and was an assistant for him with the Shock, was at the softball game. He didn’t want to discuss the Pistons’ search specifically, but he had nothing but good things to say about his former teammate.
“I think Bill is an excellent coach. I had the pleasure of working with him,” Mahorn said. “He’s one of those guys that will prepare you and get the best out of the players.”
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