Chevette to Corvette No. 51: The 1966-67 Detroit Pistons

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Facts

  • Actual record: 30-51
  • Pythagorean record: 27-54
  • Points Per Game: 111.3 (10th of 10)
  • Opponent points per game: 116.8 (4th of 10)
  • Arena: Cobo Arena
  • Head coaches: D. DeBusschere (28-45), D. Butcher (2-6)

Leaders

  • Points per game: Dave Bing (20.0)
  • Rebounds per game: Dave DeBusschere (11.8)
  • Assists per game: Dave Bing (4.1)

Top player

Dave DeBusschere

DeBusschere posted (to that point in his career) career highs in scoring (18.2 points per game) and rebounding (11.8 rebounds per game) in the 1966-67 season. Most impressively, though, is he put those numbers up while also coaching the team for most of the season. Keith Langlois recently wrote about DeBusschere’s development as a player in Detroit:

Bing and DeBusschere should have been the foundation for a great five- or six-year run. With Bing’s scoring flair reducing the onus on DeBusschere to produce points, he could blossom as the phenomenal all-around player he would come to be known as with the Knicks.

DeBusschere, at 6-foot-6, was a tremendous rebounder and defender, but he could shoot the ball past 20 feet – if there’d been a 3-point line back then, he would have made it a weapon – and he was as clutch as they come. There’s a reason DeBusschere was named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all-time.

Key transaction

Drafted Dave Bing

The Pistons needed an impact player in the first round of the 1966 NBA Draft. In 1965, the Pistons took Bill Buntin, who died tragically in a pickup game just three years later after having a heart attack. In 1964, the team took Joe Caldwell, who underachieved. Fortunately, Bing made an immediate impact, leading the team in scoring and assists as a rookie. If the Pistons had their choice, however, they would’ve taken someone else. From Time Magazine:

At the pro basketball draft two years ago, both the Detroit Pistons and the New York Knickerbockers had their hearts set on one man: Cazzie Russell, the 6-ft. 5½-in. All America from Michigan. What’s more, both teams had equal rights to him by virtue of their last-place tie in the National Basketball Association. So they flipped a $20 gold piece. The Knicks won Russell, and the Pistons settled for Syracuse’s Dave Bing, 22, a college-ball hawk but a pretty small man at 6 ft. 3 in. to stand up against the giants in the N.B.A.

As of last week, Cazzie Russell was still trying to live up to his promise with the Knicks. And the Pistons’ Dave Bing? Last year, in his first season, he averaged 20 points per game for a spiritless, last-place club and ran away with Rookie-of-the-Year honors.

Russell, as most know, had a solid career as a contributor with the Knicks, but never lived up to the lofty expectations resulting from his college career at Michigan. Bing would go on to be one of the top players in franchise history.

Trend watch

The coaching carousel starts again

Joe Dumars takes heat for changing coaches frequently, but constant change in the head coaching spot is kind of a Pistons tradition. DeBusschere and Donnie Butcher both coached the team in 1966-67. They were two of the four coaches the Pistons had over the course of four seasons.

Why this season ranks No. 51

The Pistons should’ve been entering a golden era with two young, future Hall of Famers on the roster in Bing and DeBusschere. Instead, thanks to horrid management decisions, like trading DeBusschere, the team would make the playoffs only once over the next seven seasons, wasting Bing’s prime years.

Previously

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