John Kuester has been fired by the Detroit Pistons, according to multiple news outlets. Kuester’s impending exit was the worst-kept secret in Motown since very early days of last season. What isn’t known however is who might replace him. There have been plenty of names thrown all over the place. When several teams have coaching vacancies it seems as if contenders get thrown into a giant soup and things get sloshed around until every candidate is a contender for every job. Just from a quick perusal of coaching rumors the list is long: Lawrence Frank, Dwane Casey, Brian Shaw, Chuck Person, Rick Adelman, Mike Budenholzer, Adrian Griffin, Tom Izzo, Michael Malone, Mike Woodson, Kelvin Sampson, Mark Jackson, Bill Laimbeer and Isiah Thomas.
Separating fact from fiction isn’t easy, but we can glean some information from the early reporting. First, Marc Stein of ESPN reports that the Pistons are looking someone with head coaching experience. This is backed up by Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News. There’s no certainty that it isn’t just speculation that bounces around the media echo chamber until everyone thinks its a verified fact, but it certainly makes sense. The Pistons went for a green coach in Michael Curry who quickly showed he wasn’t ready for prime time. They then gave longtime assistant Kuester his first NBA head coaching gig. Results were also not good.
Another key issue is baggage. After all, these decisions don’t occur in a vacuum. It’s no secret that the Detroit Pistons are notorious for a revolving door of coaches that features Rick Carlisle (now coaching the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals), Larry Brown (after a championship and a return the the NBA Finals), Flip Saunders (who had a terrific winning percentage and three consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference Finals) and two coaches in the past three years. But as the story goes much of the impetus for firing previous coaches was former owner Bill Davidson. With a new owner and a new slate provide Tom Gores with the benefit of the doubt as he searches for the first head coach of his franchise?
Also, does the mutiny from last season in Philadelphia have any lingering affects? Will coaches not want to coach a team that could openly defy a head coach in such a public way? And does the kind of head coach the team needed last year necessarily the same type of head coach the team will need this year? Tayshaun Prince will most certainly not be back. Richard Hamilton looks to be headed out via a trade. Ben Wallace could retire. Rodney Stuckey is a restricted free agent, although is more likely to return. Tracy McGrady will move on in free agency. All these players openly feuded with Kuester in the past save for Wallace. This team is going to get much younger and have a much different leadership structure. Stuckey could finally take the step he has been promising and become a vocal leader as well as floor general. Fans want the team to be built around Greg Monroe, certainly its most promising foundational piece. Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva could take on the mantle of leadership as it will finally be “their” team as Prince and Hamilton move on. They will shoulder more of the offensive burden and as the last big pieces from the previous regime they will certainly be under pressure to prove they still belong. A lot is up in the air and I wouldn’t want the Pistons to hire a coach based on solving yesterday’s problems. It is all about what this team needs going forward.
In the future, I will try and take a look at some of the possible head coaches the Pistons could be looking at. Specifically those with previous head coaching experience. I’m sure it will be much less thorough and more belated than anything that the indispensable Piston Powered offers up, but, alas, I will try my best.