23 Pistons' coaching candidates

Nate McMillan

The Pistons have recently tried a coach with NBA experience, Michael Curry. They’ve recently tried a coach with past success, Lawrence Frank.

Why not try for the best of both worlds?

Nate McMillan played in the league for more a decade and has turned around two franchises in pretty bleak times prior to his arrival. What he did in Seattle was good, but it was what he did in Portland that is really impressive. He dealt with tons of injuries (not including Greg Oden) and early character issues (Jailblazers holdovers), but he worked to rebuild and eventually turn it into a really fun and good team. Not to mention, he has experience working with older players in Seattle and younger ones in Portland, too.

-Brady Fredericksen

Jerry Sloan

Jerry Sloan has been out of the game for a fairly long time, but he is unquestionably a quality head coach. His teams have always been incredibly tough physically and mentally. Also, his teams have consistently executed quite well on offense as a product of his system. A little discipline and smarts could go a long way for the Pistons.

The criteria that could make his candidacy a little iffy: he is as old school as it gets. The younger players on the roster might encounter some issues with his hardnosed approach and fail to ingratiate themselves with him. This could potentially result in multiple DNP-CDs.

-J.M. Poulard

Kelvin Sampson

He was a possibility before Lawrence Frank, and there’s no reason to believe he isn’t one this time around. Sampson had his rough patches with the NCAA while he was coaching Indiana, but he was a pretty darn good coach while he was there – not to mention all the illegal stuff he did at Indiana is legal in the NBA.

Sampson’s been around the college game since Magic and Bird were battling for an NCAA title, and after spending the last four seasons learning the NBA game under Scott Skiles and Kevin McHale, he should probably be pretty well-schooled on the pro game now. It’s always risky to buy a college coach in a professional league, but Sampson could probably shouldn’t be pigeonholed as just a college coach anymore.

-Brady Fredericksen

David Fizdale

The hot new trend is to hire coaches who toiled in the video room to learn the game, and Fizdale, now a Heat assistant, did that. So did Erik Spoelstra. But so did John Kuester.

Fizdale helped LeBron James develop a post game, and that’s an instant draw to the coach. He’s recognized as one of the league’s up-and-comers, but he might have shown enough quite yet. Then again, a strong interview and a limited pool of candidates makes him an intriguing risk.

-Dan Feldman

Mike Budenholzer

Budenholzer may be a name unknown to many fans, but as a career assistant under Gregg Popovich, he’s learned from the best he could in that span. The Popovich coaching tree, which is actually a limb of the Larry Brown tree, includes active coaches like Jacque Vaughn, Mike Brown, Monty Williams, Vinny Del Negro, Avery Johnson and Doc Rivers.

His playing experience is limited to a high-scoring season spent in Denmark while simultaneously coaching the team’s youth affiliate. But seriously, 19 years under Popovich is something in itself. If you’re going to blindly take a coach from any coaching tree in the NBA, it’s Pop’s.

-Brady Fredericksen

Mike Malone

The Warriors assistant is the son of former Pistons assistant Brendan Malone, who served under Chuck Daly during the 1988-89 and 1989-90 championship seasons. The younger Malone has developed a reputation for instilling a no-nonsense defensive approach, and it’s only a matter of time until he becomes a head coach. Plus, the Warriors have been pretty good – both in record and player development – under Mark Jackson, and I really don’t want to credit Jackson for that. So, maybe that’s Malone’s influence.

-Dan Feldman

Brian Shaw

Brian Shaw is arguably one of the best assistant coaches in the NBA. The Lakers considered hiring him after Phil Jackson retired, but Mike Brown won the job instead. While he’s a great assistant coach and one of the main reasons Indiana’s defense is so good, Shaw very likely won’t join the Pistons. In fact, he turned down the Bobcats head coaching job because he wanted "to have a chance" to succeed. With the Pistons’ quick trigger for coaches, Shaw might not find this job desirable.

-Jameson Draper

Patrick Ewing

Ewing is well known for his role as a superstar on 90’s Knicks teams, but he’s been an assistant NBA coach for 10 years now, most notably as the Orlando Magic’s assistant coach for six years. He was a really big factor in developing Dwight Howard, who was, until this year, the best center in the league. Ewing becoming the Pistons head coach would be huge for Monroe and Drummond’s development and a lot of fun.

-Jameson Draper

Bill Laimbeer

Laimbeer’s WNBA success is undeniable, and for a moment, let’s pretend coaching in that league – which features a radically different power structure and playing style – is identical with coaching in the NBA. The big difference is NBA coaches make more money, and that draws a better pool of coaches. That means NBA coaches compete with the best coaches money can buy. WNBA coaches compete with less coachers. So, just because Laimbeer can outcoach his WNBA peers doesn’t mean he can necessarily outcoach NBA coaches.

In no way is this a knock on Laimbeer. It’s just an acknowledgement his résumé – which also features helping the Timberwolves to 15 and 17 wins as an assistant coach – shouldn’t simply mean he wins wherever he goes, because that sentiment lacks proper context.

-Dan Feldman

Stan Van Gundy

Unlike his TV-loving brother, Stan Van Gundy appears to be the more likely of the two brothers to return to an NBA bench soon. There are some reasons that might make the Pistons a good fit for him — notably Andre Drummond in a Dwight Howard-like role — but the rest of the roster (no great shooters) doesn’t really fit his coaching personality offensively.

Howard made a living out of impersonating him, but Van Gundy also isn’t afraid to get on a guy who isn’t performing. We’ve seen coaches in Detroit who were a little more laid back, to an extent, and perhaps a coach who will get on guys would help — or maybe they’d tune him out, too?

-Brady Fredericksen

Jeff Van Gundy

Well, we can start off with the reports Jeff Van Gundy apparently isn’t too fond of the current construction of this team:

"Detroit Pistons basketball slogan: When the going gets tough, we fire the coach," Van Gundy said. "It’s unbelievable. It’s unbelievable. You know what surprises me, Chris? These new owners in Detroit have to be exceedingly bright to have made as much money as they have. And to be duped again that your G.M. tells you that the roster is good and the coach is bad … what was the problem with Michael Curry?  What was John Kuester? Now Lawrence. They run through coaches and they haven’t even begun to address their problem. They have very little talent and very little basketball character. You combine that, you’re going to be in a long rebuild.

"I’m just surprised that when everybody acknowledges it’s a player’s league – everybody would agree with that – then the most important player or person in any organization is the person that picks the players. But we don’t, as organizations, examine them. We just take the easy way out time and time again. You lose, the G.M. convinces the owner ‘We got good players. It’s the coach’s fault.’ We fire the coach; we bring a new coach in; we continue to lose. We fire that coach, saying that ‘We have better players.’ It just goes on and on. It’s typical and I can’t believe that the Detroit owners fell for it. I just can’t believe it."

Maybe Jeff Van Gundy, the smartest guy in the room on every NBA broadcast he’s ever done, has a strict idea of “basketball character.” I can see him thinking Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva have low basketball character, but most of the Pistons are basically young and naïve puppies. Van Gundy also built his reputation on hard-nosed defensive teams. At the Pistons’ current pace, they’re likely closer to being a good offensive team than a good defensive team, but it doesn’t look like he’s a likely candidate.

-Brady Fredericksen

Avery Johnson

Way back in 2009, before John Kuester and long before Lawrence Frank, Drew Sharp said the Pistons had a deal in place to sign Avery Johnson to a two-year contract. That deal was shot down by then-owner Karen Davidson, and so began the current dreadful stretch.

Fast forward to today, and it wouldn’t surprise me the least if Avery Johnson is one of the first guys Joe Dumars calls. He’s had success in the NBA as a player and coach, even though Brooklyn fired him. The question with Johnson is how would he handle coaching a mostly-young roster — something he’s never handled as a head coach.

-Brady Fredericksen

Mike Brown

The Pistons could use a head coach in the mold of Mike Brown. During his stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers, he put a big emphasis on rebounding and defense. Considering the Pistons’ defensive shortcomings, Brown could potentially shore up that facet of the team. Granted, part of the issues can be attributed to the team’s youth, but Brown has proven that he can incorporate various types of players into his schemes.

-J.M. Poulard

Scott Skiles

Skiles, a former Michigan State player, resigned as the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this season after four and a half seasons as head coach. He’s coached the Bucks, Bulls and Suns in the past 14 years. He’s made the playoffs in six of them, losing twice in the conference finals. Skiles was widely known as a hard-nosed coach (much like his play style), and a lot of people frown upon that. But in the end, Skiles wins more than he loses, and maybe the Pistons need some discipline. Lawrence Frank never seemed to fire the team up.

-Jameson Draper

Flip Saunders

In hindsight, Dumars might regret how quickly he fired previous coaches. Saunders was fired not because he wasn’t good enough to coach a team past the first round of the playoffs, but because he couldn’t coach a team to a championship. This team doesn’t have championship aspirations, and Saunders has been a good NBA coach. It would be a little awkward to return to a previous coach, but Saunders might be the most accomplished coach willing to take the job.

-Dan Feldman

Michael Curry

Another coach Dumars fired too quickly? Probably not, but many coaches improve in their second head job. Curry’s reputation, both among players and executives, is reportedly positive, and there’s a very high chance he’ll get another top gig, possibly as soon as next season.

Enough of the Pistons’ roster has turned over where re-hiring Curry wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. But the same general manager is in place, making this a near impossibility.

-Dan Feldman

Larry Brown

When the Pistons fired Rick Carlisle, who never won few than 50 games in Detroit, the logic was defended, because when you have a chance to hire Larry Brown, you do it. Well, once again, the Pistons probably have a chance to hire Brown, who’s coaching Southern Methodist University.

Brown’s fallout in Detroit mostly came with Bill Davidson, who’s no longer around. That doesn’t mean Brown didn’t also burn bridges with Pistons who are still with the franchise, but maybe Dumars is still fond of the Hall of Famer.

It’s extremely unlikely the Pistons could hire a better basketball mind than Brown. It’s also unlikely they could hire a bigger headache. At this point, the aggravation probably isn’t worth it.

-Dan Feldman

Doug Collins

Another ex-Pistons coach, Collins might be the least likely of the group listed here to become the Pistons’ next coach. Collins’ flame burns hot, but it doesn’t burn long, and that pattern is well-established throughout his career.

Coach three years, sit out six. Coach three years, sit out three. Coach two years, sit out seven.

Collins just coached three years with the 76ers. He’s not coming to Detroit now. This is his hibernation period.

-Dan Feldman

Phil Jackson

No. I mean, we could spell N-O out in a million ways, but there is literally zero chance that Phil Jackson is whistling to get Andre Drummond‘s attention from his special super-padded chair this season.

Phil’s basically got the keys to the car, and unless there’s a Hall of Famer waiting, he’s not driving. He can choose what he wants, where he wants to go, and how much power he’ll have there. To top it off, he’s going to cost an astronomical amount of money, like, $10-plus million a season. There’s no way Tom Gores go that route for a short-term option to lead a team that isn’t ready to win big.

-Brady Fredericksen

Isiah Thomas

Isiah is one of the legends of Detroit basketball, leading the Pistons to two titles as a player. The reality is, he’s never been successful in any other profession. He’s tried to make an impact as a coach or in the front, and it hasn’t worked out. He took a talented Pacers team in the early 2000s and made them mediocre. After that, he got another big opportunity with the Knicks. We all know how that worked out. Once he seemed to be completely out of a job, he got hired by lowly Florida International and drove them further into the ground. Thomas was a great player, but he’s an awful coach. The Pistons should not, and will not, hire him.

-Jameson Draper

Brad Stevens

Stevens should be the top choice of any NBA team looking to the college ranks, though that doesn’t necessarily make him a good candidate. College coaches haven’t translated well to the NBA lately, but Stevens – with his calm demeanor, thorough gameplans, attention to statistics and tactically sound defenses – is a better bet to buck the trend than anyone.

-Dan Feldman

Tom Izzo

I’m an Izzo fan boy and will always love him, but he’s not the right guy for the job. At Michigan State, he’s molded good college players into great college players. But the best coaches in the NBA don’t only mold players, they keep stars in check. Izzo doesn’t have enough experience doing that.

-Jameson Draper

John Beilein

If we’re going to mention Tom Izzo every time this job opens, shouldn’t Beilein come up, too? Moving past his small-time roots, Beilein has managed a roster with several future NBA players, shifted his style to use more ball screens and less zone defense and won a lot of out-scheming his peers. Beilein seems like a classic college coach, and I’m not sure he’d embrace the difficulties of being the NBA. But if he ever succeeds in the NBA, a lot of people would wonder why they didn’t see it coming.

-Dan Feldman

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Tags: Andre Drummond Avery Johnson Bill Laimbeer Brad Stevens Brian Shaw David Fizdale Doc Rivers Doug Collins Dwight Howard Erik Spoelstra Flip Saunders Greg Oden Isiah Thomas Jacque Vaughn Jeff Van Gundy Jerry Sloan Joe Dumars John Beilein John Kuester Kelvin Sampson Kevin Mchale Larry Brown Michael Curry Mike Brown Mike Budenholzer Mike Malone Monty Williams Nate Mcmillan Patrick Ewing Phil Jackson Scott Skiles Stan Van Gundy Tom Izzo Vinny Del Negro

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