Why did everyone like those guys? They weren’t perceived as top players in Detroit.* None of them scored a ton, which is how most players build a following nationally.
*I still think that, roughly, between 2003 and 2005, Ben Wallace was top-three player in the league – behind Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. But he was perceived as a role player, even here, and we’re talking about perception.
Pistons fans loved those guys because they gave it their all – always, totally and unquestionably.*
*Of course, that’s not totally true. No NBA player can last an entire 82-game season without taking a few plays off. But again, we’re talking about perception.
Kuester does the same.
“You can tell how calm I am on the outside. My insides are probably turning a little bit,” Kuester told Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune before the Pistons played the Jazz on Saturday.
Here’s a guy actually coaching his guts out. How can you not love that?
After the Pistons beat the Jazz, according to Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News, Kuester pounded the scorers’ table and yelled, “and said, ‘You’ve got to love this game!" Isn’t that the same type of passion we look for in our favorite players?
So, I ask, why shouldn’t Kuester garner more love from Pistons fans?
With a 49-94 career record, third-worst among active coaches,* Kuester hasn’t set the NBA on fire with his acumen on the sideline. I’d argue his coaching chops have been underrated, but that’s for a different day.
*Leading just Kurt Rambis (53-126) and Tyrone Corbin (1-6)
I understand players and coaches are different.
A team has 13-15 players. There’s plenty of room for flawed, but likable, players.
A team has only one head coach. He must be held to a higher standard.
But that should just apply to when a team is determining whether to hire or fire a coach. Kuester will finish this season, regardless. So, why not get behind him for these final 21 games?
Ask a Pistons fan why they don’t like Kuester, and the answers will vary. He loses too often. He doesn’t communicate well. His rotations are inconsistent.
But I doubt you can find anyone, who, when giving an honest appraisal, would say Kuester isn’t trying his hardest.
Sadly, that likely won’t be enough. Coaches and players, regardless of their effort level, aren’t rewarded unless they produce results.
I was heartbroken when the Pistons traded Williams. I was shocked when Ben Wallace signed with the Bulls. I begrudgingly accepted it when McDyess signed with the Spurs. Before the Pistons let Jerebko, they better add another likable player to the roster, or I might lose my mind.
But I understand why those players haven’t, or in Jerebko’s case, probably won’t, last with the same team for their entire career. They’re expendable.
When the Pistons hired Kuester, I accepted that they’d fire him. That happens to every NBA coach, often more quickly in Detroit. But even then, it was apparent he probably lacked the skills necessary to succeed as an NBA head coach. He’s just as expandable.
But like Williams, Wallace, McDyess and Jerebko, Kuester is giving it his all, anyway.
That’s a rare trait on this team.
The Pistons aren’t fun to support. They have so few desirable options, when Kuester started his send-a-message lineup against the 76ers, he had to start Charlie Villanueva. Charlie Villanueva! The same guy who had just retweeted a negative message about Kuester a couple days before.
So, I ask, why aren’t you rooting for Kuester?
Don’t think he’ll ever develop into a coaching star? That’s fine. But I doubt many Pistons expect Jerebko to develop into a playing star. That hasn’t stopped anyone from rooting for him.
The odds are against Kuester. The fans shouldn’t be, too.