Detroit Gets Coach, Needs Talent

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - June 18, 2008
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The firing of Pistons’coach Flip Saunders was preceded with as much anticipation as a Rasheed Wallace technical. Burdened with an arrogant team whose professionalism slowly deteriorated due largely to the world’s tallest shooting guard, Saunders was a dead duck coming into the season, whose only hope at a stay of execution was an NBA title. Minus a Celtic meltdown - that Detroit should have caused - or a West Coast implosion, that was not going to happen.

Before we start calling for an investigation, it must be recognized that Saunders was no victim of a Clintonian conspiracy. He helped his way out the door by reviving Larry Brown’s distrust of anyone under 30, failing to expand his play calling and, most puzzling, his refusal to double LeBron James.

Now into the void steps Michael Curry, who is long on intellect and organizational skills but woefully short on experience. Not that that matters much in today’s NBA. The holder of a master’s degree, Curry is the former head of the Players Association and was the vice president of player development for the NBDL. He later became the VP of basketball operations for the NBA before getting a seat on the Pistons bench for a season. It’s an impressive resume, but one that doesn’t explain the very real question about how he will be able to maintain order among a group of players he backed up just five short years ago.


Curry said all the right things at his introductory press conference. “Play hard or sit” is a wonderful mantra, but one that cannot be implemented in a sport that long ago put the inmates in charge of the asylum. And unless Joe Dumars makes good on his threats to make roster changes, it’s going to be a tough couple of years for the new coach. Tough because Curry’s tenure will be short regardless of any success he may have. The team has had five coaches in nine years and could no longer employ the coach with a .713 regular season winning percentage. Curry will be lucky to see the end of his three-year deal. Anything beyond and he should consider himself truly blessed.

For his part, Dumars needs to do much more than talk about “holding people accountable.” Until he puts theory to practice, any statements about returning to the finals will be nothing more than sound bite fodder. As a former player and Hall of Fame member, he alone has the credibility to demand professional behavior from his players - something he has yet to do. He never confronted Wallace even after the All-Star forward disintegrated into childish rage that drew two technicals and forced a suspension that cost his team the Eastern Conference finals a year ago.


Detroit needs a legitimate scorer. Winning by committee brought one title, but it’s limitations have been exposed. To win consistently in the playoffs, teams need a constant offensive threat. Fortunately, help via the Western Conference is available.

Carmello Anthony brings a variety of scoring options, and teamed with center Marcus Camby the Pistons could have the low post defensive presence they’ve missed since Ben Wallace skipped town.

Carlos Boozer has an early-out clause in his contract and Utah is worried he’ll bolt after next season, leaving them with nothing. Josh Howard’s marijuana confession may have signaled the end for him in Dallas, and Cory Maggette brings 22 points per game at only $8 million per.

Dumars can talk tough, but without changes on the floor, the Curry era will be short. Fishing Wallace and Tayshaun Prince should bring some bites.

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