By: Eric Thomas
Phil Jackson has been tapped to help find a coach for the Pistons. What does this mean? Nothing. This is the sports version of empty calories; a pleasant momentary distraction from the mess the Pistons have become. Fans hoping that Jackson pulls a Dick Cheney and names himself the coach are delusional; the Zen Master isn’t signing up for a team with unproven talent and devoid of superstars.
If anything, the move has already yielded results. The media chased the proverbial laser pointer, as we always do. Any mention of Jackson gives media types the vapors. Just mention the hall of fame coach’s name and normally collected men and women break into a chunky flop sweat, blinking rapidly with hand held to the forehead, before falling into a fainting couch, murmuring in a dream state about eleven championships. The Pistons’ coaching search immediately made the front page, likely informing the rest of the country that the Pistons’ don’t currently have a coach.
Jackson’s success cannot be denied, although astute eyes might point out that Jackson had a boost by holding only the best jobs in the NBA, his name adds credibility to the organization. Why do we assume that his talent in picking coaches? The Zen Master doesn’t have any front office experience; he hasn’t consulted in coaching decisions before. Great coaches don’t always make great general managers, and history is riddled with failure when they try.
The Pistons have a rotten record with coaches. A grisly scene is framed in the rear view; since Chuck Daly it’s been a one or two year job. Even in the good years, the team has gone through coaches like Taylor Swift goes through boyfriends. Maybe because of this history, the good candidates are unlikely to return Joe Dumars’ call. Perhaps Phil Jackson’s involvement helps this problem, as any candidate will likely call Jackson back, but the person interviewed knows who they will ultimately work for.
This can’t sit well with Dumars and move only makes his retention at the end of the season more curious. If Gores didn’t trust his judgement in selecting a coach, so much that he had to booty call one of the most decorated coaches in the history of sports, why would he keep Dumars when he fired Larry Frank? It doesn’t make sense, and only further shines a light on a franchise in disarray.
Jackson always gets the best jobs. He gets to make the decision and absorb none of the blame. He can float into Auburn Hills on a carpet, anoint his choice in oil and ascend back to the clouds. If the choice doesn’t work out, it will be in spite of his efforts and not as a result of them. If it works it’s just an addendum stapled to an already amazing resume. He can’t lose, even if the Pistons are stuck with one of his former assistants that isn’t ready for prime time.
It’s a change of pace story for the Pistons, a team who hasn’t had any good news to lean on as of late. A hall of fame coach is helping the Pistons search for the next one; the Zen Master is in Detroit if only for a few fleeting moments, that is happening no matter how meaningless. Phil Jackson will not be the coach of the Pistons, but if this story makes you feel somehow better about the franchise, so be it. Focus on the moment, appreciate it while it lasts.