Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.
1. Maurice Cheeks has been fired, and it only took 50 games for him to join Pistons’ lore as one of the many Joe Dumars‘ casualties. Did Cheeks get a fair shake?
Dan Feldman: Yes, but only because he had eight seasons prior to this one. Cheeks had an established record as an NBA head coach, and it wasn’t pretty. I understand hoping he’d used his years since the 76ers fired him to improve significantly, but 50 games were enough to show he hadn’t. The Pistons were wrong to hire Cheeks in the first place, so he got more than a fair shake (and a few million dollars, too).
Brady Fredericksen: Probably not. This team is flawed, but Cheeks seemed to start figuring them out. The struggles with ill-fitting personnel weren’t his fault, and he’s had the Pistons playing at a .500-level over their last 14 games. That’s not bad, considering the rest of the season’s up-and-down nature. The firing is a low-risk decision, though. Say John Loyer is a dandy coach? Good for the Pistons, they’ve finally found a good coach and will have likely earned a playoff berth. Say Loyer is a terrible coach? Darn, the Pistons went into a tailspin and fell completely apart, keeping their draft pick. I think it’s a win-win (or is it lose-lose? I dunno?) situation.
Tim Thielke: Yes, for most coaches, 50 games would not qualify as a fair shake. Nor would it for Cheeks if he had underachieved with mediocrity. But he did a horrendous job. There is a lot of talent on this roster and he managed to consistently minimize it. Worst of all, he started with mediocrity before falling off. So it’s not like he was just taking some time to figure out how to use this eclectic bunch.
2. What does the timing of Cheeks’ firing tell you about the Pistons?
Dan Feldman: Tom Gores is only so vested in the franchise’s success. However much sense it made to fire Cheeks on Sunday, it made even more sense two days prior, before the Pistons went on a two-game win streak. There’s clearly a lag in the Pistons receiving and implementing Gores’ directions. But I get that. The Pistons are one of his many business interests and not the most substantial investment in the portfolio. He’s not required to monitor this team as rigidly as its hardcore fans.
Brady Fredericksen: Dumars isn’t the guy calling the shots. This has impatient-owner-trying-to-be-proactive written all over it. I’ve said it before, but I have no idea if Goes knows anything about basketball. He’s been more in to being an NBA owner than I expected, and he seems like he wants this team to work. That’s nice, but the fact that Loyer is apparently getting a tryout the rest of the season tells me that Gores doesn’t want Dumars hiring another coach. Does that mean Dumars’ goose is cooked? No, but it sure does feel like that.
Tim Thielke: That I don’t understand the decision making processes going on there. Firing Cheeks would have made just as much sense a dozen games ago. Why did they wait until now and not until after the season? I I had to guess a narrative for it, they finally concluded within the past month that Cheeks was an awful head coach but that they were too far in the hole to make anything but tanking a good strategy. A couple recent wins made them think this season could be turned around after all, so they got rid of him.
3. We’ve yet to see what John Loyer has to offer, but does getting rid of Cheeks in the middle of the season improve the Pistons’ playoff chances?
Dan Feldman: Yes. Firing a coach midseason usually leads to improvement. Obviously, there’s something going wrong when a coach is fired, and there’s a chance any change in those situations could be productive. Plus, a coaching change under these circumstances is likely to energize everyone – especially the players, who must have known they were consistently getting sent into each game without a coach capable of adequately preparing them. There’s a chance Loyer is even less cut out for the job than Cheeks, but even if they’re exactly equally capable, that likely means the Pistons will fare better under Loyer.
Brady Fredericksen: Sure? Loyer might be a really great find, and having a new voice may be what the Pistons need. He is apparently well-liked by the players, and while it sounds minor, that’s actually a huge deal. The Pistons players haven’t liked a coach since, what, Larry Brown?
Tim Thielke: I don’t know much about how good Loyer is or how the players felt about Cheeks. If they deemed him incompetent, I’d have to assume there’d be a a short term bump in their performance just from having a new guy call the shots. Coaching changes often have that effect. So I’ll guess yes although I’m not assuming Loyer is an upgrade until I see supporting evidence.