John Kuester fired as coach of the Detroit Pistons


The news broke a little earlier today, but here’s the team release:

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced today that John Kuester will not return next season as the team’s head coach. The decision was made following a meeting between ownership and the head coach.

“Decisions like this are difficult to make,” said Dumars. “I want to thank John for his hard work and dedication to the organization over the last two years, however, at this time we have decided to make a change.”

Kuester, who was named head coach on July 9, 2009, tallied a regular-season record of 57-107 in two season’s with the Pistons. He served one season in Detroit as an assistant coach under Larry Brown in 2003-04, helping the Pistons win the NBA Championship that year.

And Joe Dumars’ statement:

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – The following statement was released this afternoon by President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars.

“As our organization moves forward and prepares for the future, the search for our club’s new head coach is a priority and will begin immediately. However, at this time, we do not have a timetable for hiring a successor. We’ll conduct our due diligence privately and announce a decision when we’ve identified that individual.”

This was about the worst kept secret in the league, so there’s really not much left to analyze at this point. Kuester was a bad head coach in Detroit. He didn’t communicate well, and that was a major problem not just for the obvious reason that communication is vital in any industry. Kuester was hired specifically because, the organization hoped, his ties to the Larry Brown staff in Detroit would help him win the locker room over. When that didn’t happen, it was hard to imagine Kuester staying on the job long.

And as for communication? Kuester is now the third coach in a row who the Pistons have let go among not-so-subtle whispers from veteran players about a “lack of communication.” Flip Saunders had his defensive schemes openly questioned and watched as the team quit running his offense for three straight years in the playoffs. Michael Curry, brought in because his recent playing experience would make him better equipped to communicate with the players, was fired after one season for many reasons, but chief among them, he couldn’t mend fences with Rip Hamilton. Kuester was a third try at finding a communicator. At some point, if it hasn’t been already, I would hope the front office at least considers whether those communication problems have been totally the fault of three very different coaches and makes some efforts to create a better locker room culture for whoever Kuester’s successor is.

And, of course, a good share of this blame rests at the top. Joe Dumars has now fired George Irvine, Rick Carlisle, Larry Brown, Saunders, Curry and Kuester in just over a decade. It’s not that I’m making the case that some of those firings weren’t justifiable. Hell, the biggest gamble in there — replacing Carlisle with Brown — worked out as well as it possibly could, even if Brown only hung around two years. Kuester in many ways was a caretaker coach. The players were familiar with him, Kuester was inexpensive at a time when the budget was clearly the key consideration in every decision the team was making (or not making), so to see him lose his job after two years is not entirely surprising. But Dumars’ next hire is of vital importance. Much like when he fired the successful Carlisle to the shock of many, he needs his next coach to be one with some staying power. The Pistons, and Dumars in particular, can’t afford another coaching hire who loses the locker room early in his tenure and whose schemes are not strong enough to take advantage of the few assets the Pistons do have on the court right now. With the lockout looming and no one with any kind of clear picture how that will impact the offseason transactions, hiring the right coach is clearly the most important thing on Dumars’ agenda.

Tags: John Kuester