By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – Eleven NBA championship rings in his collection, widely revered for his work with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, and even legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson seems a bit befuddled by the current state of the Detroit Pistons.
Jackson spoke with USA Today and discussed his unpaid advisory role with the Pistons, which included weighing in on last summer’s coaching search.
Jackson, who said he talks with Los Angeles-based team owner Tom Gores, said he traveled to Detroit and talked with Pistons general manager Joe Dumars about finding a new leader for the team.
“I guess we weren’t successful, but I really encouraged Tom Gores that the general manager has to be able to pick his coach so they can win it together,” Jackson said. “And Joe wanted Maurice, so it didn’t work out, unfortunately for Maurice. I developed a relationship with the owner, who lives in LA. We have conversations.”
Despite Cheeks being fired 50 games into his first season and the Pistons struggling again, vying to make the playoffs after missing them for four straight seasons, Jackson seemed optimistic about the group’s future. He admitted to being puzzled, however, by some of the team’s off-season moves.
“I like their chances as they go forward,” Jackson said. “They had some curious free agent [selections], but I like their young guys. [Andre] Drummond is good.”
Popular assumption will be the “curious” free agent moves Jackson referred to include the signings of shooting forward Josh Smith and point guard Brandon Jennings.
Smith has had a horrendous year from beyond the arc (23.2 percent), while Jennings has rarely been perceived as a pass-first floor general. The addition of the expensive Smith has crowded what was already a competent backcourt with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. As far as signing Jennings, the Pistons could have gotten a purer point guard from the draft in Trey Burke, who was available to be taken and who is now being considered for Rookie of the Year.