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Who is ultimately going to take the blame if the Pistons uninspired play continues?

I’m not a ‘fire the coach’ kind of guy. In most cases, firing a coach in-season doesn’t work out. It serves as an admission that the season is basically over, the team is in trouble, etc. In rare cases, interim coaches bring a spark and a team shows slight improvement. In most cases, it serves as a stopgap, encourages the players to mail it in for someone who probably isn’t going to be around longterm and just gets a team through a dismal season until more wholesale changes can be made in the offseason.

John Kuester hasn’t done much to instill much confidence in fans or the players, apparently. In Joe Dumars’ vast history of firing coaches, he’s typically come down on the side of players in these types of disputes, which I think are fairly common in the NBA. When people in the organization weren’t enthused with Rick Carlisle’s abrasiveness, Carlisle was gone. When the players had clearly stopped respecting Flip Saunders, Saunders was gone. When Michael Curry mismanged the Allen Iverson/Rip Hamilton ego situation, and then refused to patch things up with Hamilton, Curry was gone. Even if the blame for the way the current roster is constructed lays squarely on the shoulders of Dumars, I have a feeling he’s not going to take at least the initial responsibility for it.

Kuester now has two veteran players, Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince, who pretty openly disagreed with his assessment of things to the media last night. Here was Prince’s take:

Prince said he understands Kuester wants more from the players, but the players need more from their coach as well.

“He’s right but, at the same time, it goes both ways,” Prince said. “We can sit in here and get on each other and be vocal, but like I said, the right thing’s got to come from him as well as us.

“It goes both ways. If he wants to say we’ve got to be more vocal, then he’s got to do some things better, too. Everybody has to do something better.”

And here is what Wallace had to say on Kuester’s call for more leadership:

“Come on now,” Wallace said. “I’m not going to touch that. I’m going to let that one marinate for a little while. You can write what you want to write about that.

“Next question.”

I don’t disagree with Kuester’s assessment of the team. After two games when the team played relatively cohesively to start the season, the chemistry on the court has rapidly eroded, which is usually a sign that players aren’t communicating on the court, aren’t talking on defense and are not being patient on offense.

But I don’t disagree with Prince and Wallace bristling at Kuester saying the team lacks leadership. Those guys are prideful, professional players. Granted, not everyone on the team can be called that right now, but I would say that if everyone went about their business the way Prince and Wallace do, effort would not be a question for the team, regardless of whether they were winning or losing games.

I wrote before the season started that I think Kuester will survive this season and get one more year. That was based on the fact that the Pistons were (and still are, though it appears they’re less interested than they should be) a team that something as simple as improved health could help them win a few more games than they did a year ago. As Dan Feldman mentioned, it’s also conceivable that the Pistons wouldn’t be inclined to pay Kuester plus a replacement a salary.

But there’s another factor that doesn’t bode so well for Kuester. Depending on what wild (but popular) conspiracy theory you subscribe to, Dumars has either been unable to tinker with the roster significantly because of an ownership-mandated freeze on taking on more long-term salary or because he’s so enamored with the current roster that he thinks this is a playoff team. In reality, there’s probably some middle ground between both of those theories, but neither extreme is a particularly good thing for a coach.

If there’s more truth to the freeze on adding salary thing, the Pistons will need to try something drastic that won’t come in the form of a major trade. Whether it is effective or not (again, I don’t really think it is), firing a coach is a popular choice to send a message that a team is actually doing something to fix things. And if the truth is more Dumars’ belief that the roster should be more competitive, then coming up short obviously falls on the coach first as well.

Panicking after a bad loss happens all the time. But last night’s game was essentially a replay of all the terribleness of last season. Ultimately, I don’t think Kuester is solely to blame for this (he didn’t assemble the roster and he’s not the one who played with little effort), but it’s hard to see him surviving too many more performances like that.

18 Comments

  • Nov 3, 20102:13 pm
    by nuetes

    Reply

    Q is done for. If they don’t win a game before they head West it’s all over. I also don’t like the idea of firing coaches midseason, but if he’s losing the team what can you do? Dumars has to do something. I don’t know how fast he could even get a trade to materialize to alleviate some of this discontent if he tried. Firing Kuester might be his only way to buy some time.

  • Nov 3, 20102:27 pm
    by Alan

    Reply

    Q may get fired but he is absolutely right about needing somebody to step-up.  As I watched Detroit give up its lead of 21 to the Bulls the other night, I thought to myself, “who’s going to step-up?”  At that moment, Q inserted Wallace back into the game and I thought, “Good move, but NO!  This cannot be Ben Wallace’s team.  Ben Wallace can support this team but at 36 this HAS TO BE SOMEBODY ELSE’S TEAM!!”  So whose team is this?

    This can only be one of three people’s teams:
    1.) T-Mac – it was a longshot from the start and I’d put the chances at about 1 in 100 (more like 1 in a million) but what if he still had game and last two seasons were the result of injury.  Regardless, after last nights exit its clear that he can’t be our savior.
    2.) Stuckey – this was the goal from the beginning.  The small school kid who was unknown and fell to Detroit at the 15 spot.  He out-muscled the captain everyday in practice and put a strong case together for Dumars to trade Billups.  He can’t shoot from deep but he can go to the hole and get to the line well.  Dumars surrounds him with shooters (Gordon, Villanueva, Daye) to enable Stuckey to get the hole.  So, it’s up to Stuckey to show us he is who Dumars thought he could be.  That’s what we need from him.
    3.) Bynum – he’s the fan favorite and he’s so easy to root for.  The story is amazing as he goes undrafted, catches on in Europe, makes the squad, gets the contract…you know the story.  I’m willing to overlook his size and lack of shooting but its hard, real hard to overlook that he’s often injured and unavailable. 

  • Nov 3, 20102:33 pm
    by Justin

    Reply

    We both know a coach’s job is two parts. One is the Xs and Os, the other part is managing the egos.  Kuester has been average at best with his play calling, but, like many of the mentioned coaches before him, he is having struggles keeping his players in check. For better or worse, if you can’t keep guys like Tayshaun Prince from openly criticizing you in the media, you’re going to have trouble coaching a team.
    Kuester isn’t going anywhere right now, I just can’t see the team eating his contract in the middle of a sale, but if he can’t gain the respect of his players, this season is going to be brutally long.

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  • Nov 3, 20103:13 pm
    by brgulker

    Reply

    Firing Kuester at this point would be a picture perfect example of passing the buck. The primary reason this team sucks is because of the roster we have. In the most perfect of ideal worlds, this team might approach .500. In the less than perfect world in which we live – where Jonas is out for almost the whole season, and as a result, our big man rotation is one of the worst in the game – this team is going to approach 30 wins. No coach can change that.
     
    The players we have are mediocre, and they don’t complement each other particularly well. That’s on Dumars. If he fires Q because of that, well, maybe that’s something our new owner needs to consider …

  • Nov 3, 20103:20 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    where exactly are these 30 winnable games? anyone care to look over the schedule and find some favorable matchups before throwing out random numbers?
     
    also, the fact that i’m the only one who’s able to decipher kuester’s offensive system is ridiculous. why does nobody notice that all we run are isolation plays? there was no cohesion in the first game, no teamwork, cooperation. all we ran were isolation plays. almost 100% of the time. the only difference is that in those games we had stretches where more of the tough shots fell. we haven’t had ten easy buckets all season.

  • Nov 3, 20103:28 pm
    by nuetes

    Reply

    I agree it’s on Dumars, but he also has to do something to appease the fans, and even his own players. He didn’t do Kuester any favors with this roster, but 0-4 could turn into 0-12 with this schedule and somebody has to be the sacrificial lamb here. A trade if it does happen most likely won’t occur until sometime near the deadline when other teams are more likely to deal. He has to buy some time somehow.

  • Nov 3, 20103:54 pm
    by Alan

    Reply

    Does anybody know when the sale goes through? 

  • Nov 3, 20104:43 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    guys, be patient. we have a lot of injured players right now. injuries are the key. let’s reserve judgment until the team has a chance to get fully healthy, no matter how long that may take. hasn’t that been the whole plan since last season? evaluate the team and see what we have, then decide if we want to make moves or not. why should we change things now? let’s just play it safe and change nothing until eventually we see the results we’re waiting for. only then should we stop evaluating things and pick a direction. i think this team can be good! rip hamilton is an all-star! t-mac!

  • Nov 3, 20104:56 pm
    by Alan

    Reply

    @Laser,

    You are the devil.

  • Nov 3, 20105:20 pm
    by nuetes

    Reply

    If Jerebko was healthy we would be 4-0, and a 50 win team. I guess we will just have to wait until next year to find out how good we could have been this year.
     
    Ridiculous.

  • Nov 3, 201010:43 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @nuetes:
    “I don’t know how fast he could even get a trade to materialize to alleviate some of this discontent if he tried.”
    Exactly. There’s not even anyone in play trade-wise right now, other teams haven’t had a chance to completely kill their season in the first five games. I don’t think even Laser could’ve predicted a worse start.

  • Nov 3, 201010:48 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @Alan:
    “So, it’s up to Stuckey to show us he is who Dumars thought he could be.  That’s what we need from him.”
    Billups would never feud with a coach, even with a coach he didn’t respect. Billups was and is a true professional. Stuckey is immature and hasn’t shown he’s committed to improving.

  • Nov 3, 201010:49 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @J-Rog:
    “Kuester isn’t going anywhere right now, I just can’t see the team eating his contract in the middle of a sale, but if he can’t gain the respect of his players, this season is going to be brutally long.”
    Well, in two days, Prince and Wallace both bristled at Kuester’s comments publicly and Stuckey is now openly fighting with him. A guy who can’t get along with arguably his three most important players just simply can’t stay on as coach.

  • Nov 3, 201010:52 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @brgulker:
    “The players we have are mediocre, and they don’t complement each other particularly well. That’s on Dumars. If he fires Q because of that, well, maybe that’s something our new owner needs to consider”
    Don’t disagree, but the coach will always go before the GM does. And although Dumars assembled the mess, it’s not as if Kuester has done anything to prove he should hang around either. At least Dumars has the glory days to lean on. Kuester has nothing.

  • Nov 3, 201010:52 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @Laser:
    “also, the fact that i’m the only one who’s able to decipher kuester’s offensive system is ridiculous. why does nobody notice that all we run are isolation plays?”
    Uh … a lot of people have noticed that.

  • Nov 3, 201010:54 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @nuetes:
    “but 0-4 could turn into 0-12 with this schedule”
    Exactly, and no coach of any team (except for maybe a first-year coach of a rebuilding project) would survive that kind of start. The team has to show progress quickly, or they’re going to make a change.

  • Nov 4, 20107:45 am
    by Mike

    Reply

    I was at the Atlanta game sat behind the bench.  Prince’s body language is not good.  Not very interested in what’s going on during timeouts.  Sometimes standing so far it was clear he couldn’t hear.  He’s the prime guy to trade (if Dumars is allowed) because he has an expiring contract.  I doubt people want Rip’s contract as he has 3 years left.
    Wallace came out in the 1st quarter – didn’t return.  Stuckey came out 2nd quarter didn’t return.  On D Monroe was torched by Zsa Zsa – needs to get stronger / more aware.  He did attack the basket on offense.  He has some ability.

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