AUBURN HILLS – Here are a few more notes from John Kuester’s introductory press conference today:
Joe Dumars, shirt un-tucked, strolled up to the podium very calmly. Understandable, considering introducing a new coach is basically a bi-annual event for him.
Kuester on the other hand, dressed in a suit, looked a little more nervous. Understandable, considering this is his first shot at being an NBA head coach.
Kuester knew he was going to be asked about being Dumars’s sixth head coach in 10 seasons. He didn’t know how to answer until his wife provided some perspective.
“She said, ‘No problem,’ ” Kuester said. “She said I was her sixth choice.”
They’ve been married for 32 years.
“Joe, we’ve got a chance,” Kuester said.
Dumars said, unlike previous coaches, Kuester won’t be judged on getting Detroit to the NBA Finals.
“Our goal right now is to get back headed in the right direction,” Dumars said. “We’re going through a transition period right now.”
Dumars fired Rick Carlisle and Michael Curry after saying they would each return for another season. So, will he really stick with giving Kuester a long leash?
“He might have the most job security in the whole NBA right now,” Dumars said.
Responded Kuester: “God bless you, Joe.”
The Larry Brown factor
It took Kuester just one minute and 36 to say he wanted to do things “the right way” – a noted Larry Brownism.
Kuester served as an assistant under Brown for six years and Philadelphia and one in Detroit, when the Pistons won the title in 2004.
Kuester made note of the three things Brown used to have an assistant write on the board before every game:
- Play hard
- Play smart
- Play together
I’m sure there were many nights Kuester was the one writing that.
“He had a big impact on my life,” Kuester said. “To me, he’s like E.F. Hutton. Everyone listens.”
Kuester challenged Brown more than any other assistant in 2004, according to Michael Rosenberg of the Free Press. That impresses me. But will he be willing (and able) to challenge his players in the same way?
When you think of Rick Carlisle’s Pistons teams, defense usually comes to mind first. Carlisle emphasized it, and Detroit excelled at it.
But what was Carlisle last job before coming to the Pistons?
He was the Pacers’ offensive coordinator, much like the position Kuester held in Cleveland last year.
With his ties to Larry Brown, Mike Brown and Dean Smith, it’s no surprise Kuester plans to emphasize defense. Last season was the first year Kuester focused on offense.
“Championships are won playing defense,” Kuester said. “We’ll be a grind-it-out team for 48 minutes.”
If the league is geared toward offense, defense should be the priority. If the rules make it easier to score, you won’t need to be as good on offense. The ability to do what most teams can’t sets you apart.
Kuester said his first action after being introduced as the Pistons’ new coach would be to go to Richard Hamilton’s wedding.
Kuester’s eyes lit up when discussing Hamilton, whom he coached during the 2003-04 season (Tayshaun Prince is the only other Piston who was on the team that year). Hamilton is one of five Pistons that Kuester has talked to so far.
“We had a nice long discussion,” Kuester said. “He was great.”
Kuester had also talked with Prince, Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.
Kuester wants to develop a strong relationship with his players on and off the court. That’s obviously a pretty big difference from Curry.
This is where Kuester’s experience comes in.
He knows it’s a players’ league. Curry didn’t.
Pat Sullivan and Darrell Walker will return as assistants next year. Kuester said someone else would probably be added to the staff, too.
Odds and ends
- Cleveland assistant Chris Jent texted Kuester to tell him LeBron James planned on scoring 50 points when the Cavaliers played Detroit.
- This isn’t the first time Kuester got a job because he was willing to take less money. Iona’s Pat Kennedy withdrew from consideration to become George Washington’s head coach in 1985 when the school couldn’t offer enough money. That left Kuester to join GW.
- The Grizzlies’ Lionel Hollins is the only current NBA head coach who was older than Kuester when he got his first chance to lead an NBA team. And Hollins had two stints as an interim head coach prior to that.