By: Jamie Samuelsen
Since 2000, the Lions have had five head coaches. During that time, they’ve had one winning season and zero playoff wins.
Since 2000, the Pistons have had seven head coaches. During that time they won an NBA title and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals six consecutive years.
Anyone else see a problem here?
Lawrence Frank was fired today after two lackluster years coaching the Pistons. Frank is a good man and a good coach, but few tears are being shed for his ouster. It’s not like the Pistons just fired a coach who won a title and got to Game 7 of the Finals the following year (That’s right. They already did that with Larry Brown back in 2005. Oh well.)
Whoever gets the job next will be the eighth coach that the Pistons have employed since 2000. George Irvine. Rick Carlisle. Brown. Flip Saunders. Michael Curry. John Kuester. Frank.
It’s a lengthy list with some clear highs and deadly lows. But here’s the most amazing thing. During that same era, only the Oakland Raiders have employed more coaches or managers than the Pistons have in ALL of major sports. That’s staggering. Especially when you consider the fact that the Pistons were probably the second or third best team in the NBA over the previous decade (Spurs and Lakers were ahead of them. Who else?)
Coaching instability usually comes with losing teams to try to jumpstart a talented roster. This roster was talented for most of this era (thanks in large part to Joe Dumars). But they kept feeling the need to jumpstart the coaching job.
Granted, this is not all on Dumars. To be fair, the ouster of Brown and perhaps Carlisle rested more on the shoulders of owner Bill Davidson than in did on Dumars. And it’s clear now that current owner Tom Gores favored Frank over current Knicks head coach Mike Woodson (who was Dumars’ pick). But Dumars bears plenty of blame as well. The picks of Curry and Kuester made no sense. The Saunders hire was such a contrast to the hard-driving Brown that the team basically took over control at that point and never gave it back.
Dumars didn’t help either by empowering Rodney Stuckey to act like an NBA diva even though he never played close to that level. And while the Chauncey Billups-for-Allen Iverson trade was a calculated gamble. It clearly destroyed the once proud team and sabotaged the season for Curry before it had even gotten going.
Joe Dumars is one of the greatest Pistons ever. And he is the architect of one of the most unique title teams in modern NBA history. There were no superstars and no mega contracts. It was just a group of guys who played together the ‘right way’. He’s made some good picks (Greg Monroe, Tayshaun Prince, Andre Drummond) and some awful ones. He’s made a slew of very shrewd trades. And he’s made some horrific, cap-consuming signings. There is no doubt that the good outweighs the bad for the Dumars regime. But as he has said many times when he’s hired new coaches, sometimes it’s just time to go in a different direction.
This summer, the Pistons will search for a new head coach and will have a bunch of money to spend under the cap. Do you trust Dumars to do either one of these things well? The track record indicates that you shouldn’t. And I don’t either. Dumars should be a Piston for life. He just shouldn’t run the basketball operations any more.