By Ashley Dunkak
AUBURN HILLS (CBS DETROIT) – Andre Drummond begins his description of new player development coach Rasheed Wallace – yep, the former Piston who holds the NBA record for technical fouls – with a note on where Wallace spends his time at the practice facility.
“That little cube you see over there? That first one? That’s his office. He’s not in it ever,” Drummond said with a laugh. “He doesn’t like sitting down too much. He’d rather be on the court. He’s itching to play. He wants to play, but he’s really excited that he can teach the young guys like myself and Greg [Drummond]. He just loves being here.”
It might have seemed an odd move at first glance, the Pistons bringing in a former player with no former NBA coaching experience, one known for his attitude, his penchant for jawing with opposing players and referees, his technical fouls.
So far, though, the gamble, as some would call it, has worked well. Certainly, of course, Wallace cannot be defined simply by his antics, though he often is. In addition to all the dramatics, Wallace always had tremendous talent and knowledge of basketball, and he played an integral part in winning Detroit an NBA championship in 2004.
Entertaining past notwithstanding, players are loving the bad-boy-turned-coach they call Sheed.
“He’s been great for me,” Drummond said. “He’s been a great guy and he’s definitely a great dude to be around.”
Now 39 years old, Wallace has almost two decades on many of the players on the Pistons roster, but he still gets out on the floor and goes up against the young guys.
“He ran up and down with us a couple times, actually. It’s fun because he still gets after it, but after he’s done, he lets you know that he’s dog tired,” Drummond said, laughing again. “It’s great that he’s still able to play with us and he can coach at the same time.
“I don’t think there’s any other coach in the NBA that does the stuff he does,” Drummond added. “He gets suited up and he’s ready to play like he’s ready to go this season, so just having him out there on the floor, playing with me and coaching me at the same time, it’s just great.”
For Drummond, the advice has been to be patient with the ball when he catches. Relax. See the floor. Find the spots and look at where you can score or pass.
For Toni Mitchell, Sheed’s instructions included focusing on his strengths, playing hard and putting himself in a position to get to use those best skills rather than concentrating on weaknesses.
Of course, the players seem to enjoy Wallace’s personality and approach as much as they appreciate his advice.
“It’s different,” Mitchell said. “Sheed’s still crazy, crazy as ever, but it’s good, man. This is just a good system and around good people, so it should be fun.”
Like many great players, though – and most agree that, for all his schticks, Wallace was certainly a great player – the new coach knows when to be businesslike and when to let loose.
“He’s funny,” rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. “He just comes in the locker room while we’re in there just chilling, and he just comes in there and jokes around, just plays a little bit. He’s a great coach. On the court, he’s serious, he’s all about basketball, and then in the locker room, he’s all fun and games. It’s just good to have him around.”
Head coach Maurice Cheeks, for one, is not surprised that the experiment is going so well, despite early concern by many outside the team about putting someone with such a wild reputation in a position of authority and in a role to be an example to young players.
“I am not as surprised as most of you people are surprised because I knew some of the things that he did while he was playing and I knew some of the things that he’s shown players while he was on a team,” Cheeks said. “He was one of the best teammates while he was playing. I knew he had a lot of knowledge, I knew he had a lot of things that he could help a lot of players with.
“I’m looking forward to him growing as a coach,” Cheeks continued, “and you’ll see, a lot of people will see his transformation from player to coach and how beneficial he’ll be to our team.”