Detroit Pistons Coach Dreams: Lawrence Frank

Essentials

Age: 40

Current Job: Assistant Coach, Boston Celtics (2010-present)

Previous experience:

  • Head Coach, New Jersey Nets (2004-09)
  • Assistant Coach, New Jersey Nets (2000-04)
  • Assistant Coach, Vancouver Grizzlies (1997-2000)
  • Assistant Coach, University of Tennessee (1994-97)
  • Staff Assistant, Marquette University (1992-94)
  • Student Manager, Indiana University (1988-92)

Pros

Imagine the Pistons could hire a young lead assistant from one of the best teams in basketball. His reputation says he’s one of the hardest-working and brightest coaches in the NBA.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Now consider, between stints as a hard-working, under-the-radar assistant coach and lead assistant for a division champion, the candidate spent five full seasons and two partial seasons as a head coach.

That’s Frank.

Frank is one of my favorite candidates for the job. He has a lot of experience, and he’s still young. It’s foolish to hire a coach in the NBA for the long haul, because few make it that far, but Frank is young enough to have a chance at sticking in Detroit and growing with the team.

Frank was on his way to becoming a head coach when the Nets fired Byron Scott, and Frank probably got his break a little before he was ready. But that just meant he could learn on the job.

He did fairly well with New Jersey, going 225-241. Looking beyond a record tainted by poor rosters later in his tenure, Frank handled the team well. When he became the Nets’ head coach, one of his first acts was meeting with each of his players individually to discuss their roles. It’s a wonder what communication can do. New Jersey always played hard under his watch and usually played strong defense.

Patrick often talks about wanting players who love basketball, who have a deep passion for the game, who will go unhealthy lengths to get better at the sport. Frank loves basketball.

Cons

Frank doesn’t look like a basketball coach. He never even played high school basketball. (He played in youth leagues.) Directly, that doesn’t matter now. He’s been preparing to become a coach since he was a teenager, and he’s more than qualified on paper.

But will his players respect him? There’s a perception – one I disagree with – that you have to play the game to know the game. If the Pistons believe that, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Steve Popper of The New York Times tells a story about Frank’s coaching roots:

”When he was a kid, he used to sit there watching and call all the plays,” his mother said. ”I have two older sons that played basketball. The oldest played in college. It used to drive them crazy. He would never shut up. He’d be calling the plays and they would say, ‘What do you know about it?’ ”

Would the Pistons hold the same view? Frank’s small stature and boyish face still don’t inspire anyone to believe in his basketball acumen.

Also, Frank’s lone head-coaching gig didn’t end well. After a pair of 34-48 seasons, the Nets started 0-16 in 2009 and fired Frank. But to be fair, Josh Boone, Yi Jianian and Bobby Simmons started regular for at least a season during that stretch. It appeared Frank became a scapegoat for the Nets’ historically poor 2009 start, not that he lost the team. And considering New Jersey went 12-54 the rest of the season, Frank probably doesn’t deserve too much blame.

Verdict

If Joe Dumars hires Frank, Dumars must demand that the Pistons respect their new coach. I’m not sure whether Dumars knows how to do that, though. When he hired John Kuester, he said Kuester might have the most job security in the league, and that obviously didn’t hold.

Frank would be a stellar choice – only if Dumars has figured out how to harness the players’ tendency to dismiss coaches. Otherwise, hiring Frank would just start the clock toward another revolt.

Previously

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