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Lionel Hollins gives a lesson in how Michael Curry probably would’ve saved his job as Pistons coach

Something PistonPowered readers should probably know about me: any time I can remotely tie an Allen Iverson story into a Pistons angle, no matter how long it has been since he played here, I’m going to do it.

Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal relays this story of how Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins simultaneously stood up to Iverson and saved the Grizzlies season a year ago:

The Grizzlies were mired in losing and Allen Iverson — having missed a training camp during which Hollins preached a philosophy of one team, one goal — was upset about playing off the bench. Suddenly, the Griz had to deal with one big ego, one major problem.

So on Nov. 5, 2009, Hollins asked everyone in a Los Angeles gym to leave practice. That included visitors such as former Griz president Jerry West. Hollins then got something off his chest. In front of the team, Hollins demanded that Iverson conform to the team’s philosophy, understand his role and respect his teammates. Several key players say it was an essential move by Hollins, for the sake of the team.

We all know what happened. Iverson wouldn’t conform, he fake retired, he went and played poorly in Philly and now he’s in Turkey. Contrast that with how Michael Curry handled Iverson in Detroit:

“M.C. lied to us a million times,” (Rip) Hamilton said of Curry. “He sat me and A.I. down one time and was like, ‘I’m going to lean on both of you the whole year, just don’t go to the media. Say you’ll do whatever for the team and blah blah blah.’ This was a week before he brought me off the bench. He lied. So I feel for what Allen said.”

He added: “I think the person that we had didn’t know how to take advantage of (our roster). Instead of taking advantage of it, he killed it.”

Unlike the Grizzlies, who went on a major roll and threatened for a playoff spot in the West, the Pistons went into a tailspin as guys were openly frustrated, they whimpered into the playoffs and were swept by the Cavs in an embarrassingly uncompetitive series.

I come back to Iverson often because that is the move that is solely responsible for where the franchise is at right now. Joe Dumars receives most of the blame for making the trade, and I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve it, but it’s important to note that the trade also gave Curry, who was supposedly hired for his willingness to speak his mind and stand up to veteran players, an opportunity to assert his stamp on the team and establish the standards he expected players to abide by. Had Curry taken a Hollins-like stand, he might still be coaching the team right now. Not that I’m saying that would be a good thing (though I do miss his suits). It’s just funny how one single event can have such a lasting impact on a franchise. Hollins handled it perfectly and the Grizzlies are one of the league’s exciting up and coming teams. Curry handled it horribly and the Pistons are a major question mark still.

7 Comments

  • Oct 28, 201010:56 am
    by Laser

    Reply

    i agree that this would have been the right approach. there are a lot of things curry should have done differently. at one point, even though he had not found a good formula, curry stopped tinkering with the starting lineup (perhaps a mandate from joe), but he still had dyess starting. dyess was moved to the starting lineup to help erase iverson’s defensive mistakes. the result was no bigs on the bench to stretch the floor, and an unnecessary imbalance. if things were humming along, i would understand the unwillingness to change, but they weren’t. curry just made a stubborn, mechanical decision to settle on a starting five. yes, the guy was terrible. but there’s more to it than this…
     
    A) the buck stops with joe. for years now, this has been “his” team. Mr D gave him the reins, and say back; everybody on the floor and the coaching staff is his choice and his responsibility. he hired curry and paid the guy $7.5 million ($2.5 annually) to coach here, then handed curry a foreseeably bad situation. no matter how bad curry was, joe deserves every bit of the blame for putting an unfit coach in a position to fail.
     
    B) iverson did not “single-handedly” kill this team, or come close. no rational person could think he did. it’s a bold, melodramatic stance to take, but it’s patently untrue and ridiculous. the only person that had the ability to do that was joe, who was pretty much given carte blanche. he built the team on his own, with the presumable caveat that they stay on the right side of the tax line. once iverson was chased out of town, there was a golden opportunity to set this team on the right path. almost a clean slate, except for a major contract or two for players he hand-selected. joe just blew it.
     
    curry and iverson make great scapegoats. i hate them both, and i hate the parts they played in this team’s downfall. but joe’s the director here. joe’s the only one worth pointing a finger for this absurd collection of players and the team’s bleak future. curry and iverson should have been bit players, but they were given marquee starring roles. blame the guy who gave them those roles. people just can’t resist making excuses for joe dumars.

  • Oct 28, 201011:07 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    “iverson did not “single-handedly” kill this team”

    Didn’t say he did. But that move did.

  • Oct 28, 201011:30 am
    by Rick

    Reply

    Its simple if you trade Chauncey Billups the MVP of the Finals for a player that does not have a ring nor will he ever get one, you cannot expect to win at all. A team has to have a leader and thats what Chauncey was. I expect this team to struggle for a long time and the truth is Joe Dumars made a huge mistake.

  • Oct 28, 201012:03 pm
    by nuetes

    Reply

    I think Curry should have started Iverson at PG and kept Stuckey coming off the bench. Continued to let Iverson be Iverson and see where it went. AI thought he had to come here and ‘fit in’ or something, and he couldn’t do it. I see the opposite approach. Just let him run wild and jack up all the shots he wants. It’s what he always did, and he was successful. Would that have made the team better? Doubtful, but it wouldn’t have been as sad of an ending to the AI story or to the Billups trade.
     
    The truth is the trade in itself caused the downfall. The team was about to take a spin anyway because Dumars wasn’t forward thinking enough. Sheed and Dice were going to expire at the end of the season anyway. Would you really have wanted to resign them? Sheed had nothing left. Seeing as how Dumars just let them expire and leave it seems unlikely had he kept Billups that he would have traded them for something before they walked out the door for nothing. It was probably an inevitable downfall, but the trade becomes the obvious fork in the road.

  • Oct 28, 201012:09 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    that’s what i meant, hayes. and i disagree wholeheartedly. i’m interested to see if anyone agrees with you. here’s a few for-instances:
     
    A)everything plays out the same up until the trade deadline. joe sees that iverson is not working out as planned. he realizes that if he didn’t think the team was going to compete for a championship with chauncey at the helm (and they might have), he gets creative and changes course. he jump-starts the rebuilding process and trades one or both of his expiring contracts (sheed and iverson) for productive players on sensible contracts to teams looking to win big in the summer of lebron. OR…
     
    B) everything goes as it did until last summer. joe decides that patience is a virtue (his current philosophy, now that he’s left himself with scraps) and offers a ben gordon-ish contract (maybe a bit richer) to someone like david lee. the knicks match or they don’t. if they match, dumars switches to plan B for all that cap space. he decides to take the unconventional approach; he goes around the league and targets teams that are looking to shed some contracts and win big in the summer of lebron.
     
    C) joe sits on his cap space and tries to win big in the summer of lebron. he probably comes up short (i’m nothing if not realistic), so he continues to sit on his cap space. after all, in each of these scenarios he hasn’t given away arron afflalo or amir johnson for absolutely nothing. so we have nice pieces and plenty of flexibility. amir’s contract will have expired by now, so maybe it was traded at last year’s deadline. the team isn’t very good, but it’s not much worse than it is now, and best of all: there’s hope for the future. he can still absorb contracts if he wants to, and the team really isn’t that much different. he’s got defined starters (in fact, the same ones he’s got now if he wanted), nobody stepping on rip’s toes as far as minutes and a role as go-to scorer goes. afflalo’s still here to play backup SG/SF and knock down threes while being a defensive stopper. charlie and ben are somebody else’s albatross. fans are probably still calling for his head, but they have NO idea how good they have it in this imaginary dream world.
     
    on the other hand, it’s hard to imagine things being all that much worse for us.

  • Oct 28, 201012:14 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    @nuetes: we had dyess signed for another season. denver bought him out, but half of that buyout was still on their books that year. and joe did not “just let dyess expire,” we did not have his rights after the trade and buy-out. he came here on a veteran’s minimum and got more money to play in san antonio.
     
    and to answer your question, no i don’t re-sign either of them. and i don’t think joe would either. he went the “cap space” route, and you’re right that the trade was a CRUCIAL fork in the road. but that’s all it was. it wasn’t the end. just the beginning of the end. see above for a choose-your-own adventure of how this team could have gone forward. iverson was FAR from the end of joe’s blunders.

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