The Detroit Pistons have done their best to make the job of NBA head coach obsolete. The Pistons have won 25-30 games for each of the past six seasons, no matter who was at the helm.
The first unsuccessful head coach was Michael Curry, a former player for the Piston. John Kuester clashed with the players on his way out. Lawrence Frank was trying to get back on the short list of good NBA coaches, but Detroit wasn’t the place to do that. Maurice Cheeks didn’t even last a season. John Loyer is the interim coach, but his role is up in the air.
It wasn’t just like this when the Pistons were bad either. Joe Dumars sacrificed Rick Carlisle for Larry Brown and then brought in Flip Saunders. The Pistons were winning at least 50 games, despite the man in the suit.
Now Dumars is relegated to a consulting role. The question during the GM’s later years was how much of the coach firing was Dumars, and how much was the impatience of new owner Tom Gores.
When a new President of Basketball Operations is hired, he will have to find a coach. The question is, can he resist the urge to fire the coach if things don’t work out initially?
The differing philosophies haven’t seemed to matter. Dumars hasn’t been able to put together a winning roster, and the blame lies with the players. Five coaches have failed with different offensive systems, and its doubtful all stubbornly stuck to their structure without adjusting to the strengths of the players.
There doesn’t seem to be a system that allows Josh Smith, Andre Drummond, and Greg Monroe to be on the floor together. The three-big lineup also doesn’t seem to work with a shoot-first point guard like Brandon Jennings. And let’s not start on defense, where the Pistons have been abysmal under every coach.
A new coach is expected to fix this. George Karl is one of the major names under consideration, the former Nuggets Coach and ESPN analyst. Karl is a fairly good coach, having won 60% of his games. He is also responsible for successfully juggling a Camerlo Anthony/Allen Iverson dynamic, keeping the team together after Anthony was traded, and for helping mold an Andre Igodula led team into a playoff contender.
Yet Karl did this with a roster much better than the Pistons, and he has only made it out of the first round of the playoffs in the last ten years. The Pistons haven’t made the playoffs in several years, so maybe they would settle for a first round exit.
Lionel Hollins, the former coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, is another name under consideration. Hollins is a largely unproven commodity, having three winning seasons in his six years as a head coach in the league. He also comes with a warning sign: despite leading the Grizzlies to the Western Conference Finals, his contract was not renewed. Problems with upper management were rumored to be the cause.
The major candidates have a couple of flaws, and they are given a bad roster to work with. So why not give the interim coach a shot? It saves on a big contract that has to be paid out once the inevitable firing occurs, and fans get to see if John Loyer can do better than the big names. Major change won’t occur until a few trades are made, so Loyer gets to be the steward of the ship for a while.
It’s a better idea than subjecting everyone involved with the Detroit organization to a bi-annual (or sometimes annual) firing of the Pistons coach.