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Joe Dumars let the Pistons’ intra-team bickering go too far – and now he can’t keep John Kuester/ can’t fire John Kuester

In an interview with Keith Langlois earlier this season, Joe Dumars explained his philosophy for managing his coach:

I’m very careful to allow the coach to make his decisions. It’s not my job. I can’t make that decision. I trust that the coaching staff is going to make the right decision. He’ll fill me in on when he’s going to make some changes, but like I always tell Q, at the end of the day you have final say on rotations, minutes – I have to defer to the coaches on that. That’s what I do.

By all accounts, he’s consistently communicated and executed that philosophy since becoming the Pistons’ general manager.

In theory, the plan shines. Hire someone you trust, and give him room to operate.

In reality, the plan stinks.

Dumars has left his coaches on an island to fend for themselves and done so under the guise of providing freedom for the coaches to run their teams. This wasn’t a sinister decision by Dumars. He thinks it’s best course for the franchise.

But the side effects of the philosophy – four fired coaches in six years and near-consistent player bickering between – negate the positives of Dumars’ hands-off policy.

Dumars gives his coaches enough rope to hang themselves, and when the noose is tightening, Dumars still won’t step in to help the man he hired. He’ll just provide the final yank.

Most of the time, Dumars’ philosophy works. Coaches thrive when they’re not micromanaged. In most situations, the coach will find the best course of action for the team without Dumars’ help. But that other small percentage of situations where the Pistons would benefit from Dumars getting involved, in time, sabotage everything else.

Dumars must realize there’s a difference between micromanaging and managing. He needs to get involved.

Today’s practice boycott by up to five playersRichard Hamilton, Chris Wilcox, Tayshaun Prince,*Tracy McGrady* and  Ben Wallace* – partial boycott by Rodney Stuckey and Austin Daye, who both missed the bus and arrived late, should tell him that.

*A team spokesman said Prince had the flu and McGrady was out with a headache, according to Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News. Wallace has missed previous practices and games due to a family matter, according to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. Even if the boycott is less widespread than all seven players, Dumars should act. With or without today serving as a giant warning sign, the underlying problem still exists.

Dumars has often reiterated his desire to keep these disputes in-house. The simplest way to do that is eliminate them from happening. Who knows how many practice walkouts or other signs of friction between Kuester and the players never saw the light of day? Even if just a small percentage of incidents get leaked, the more that occur, the more that become public.

Joe Dumars should intervene

What happens if Dumars fires Kuester? The old guard’s evident belief that they can undermine a coach at anytime gets reinforced, and a new generation of Pistons’ gets a lesson in how to get their way in this organization.

What happens if Dumars keeps Kuester? A team full of malcontents hurting the Pistons’ on-court performance (even more) and more public whining from players leads to more negative exposure.

Neither option is preferable, but if a compromise isn’t possible, I’d take the latter. With a 48-93 record, on the most basic level, the Kuester era has been a failure. Get at least some value from the Pistons’ fourth-losingest multi-year coach of all-time. End the inmates-run-the-asylum environment once and for all.

Of course, a compromise is still on the table. But that can happen only if Dumars gets involved. Kuester and the players aren’t going to work through this on their own.

Dumars could step in and demand improvement from both. Kuester hasn’t communicated well enough. The players haven’t respected their coach enough. If anyone can get both sides to fix their flaws, it’s Dumars, who I still believe commands respect in the locker room and the coach’s office.

It’s far from guaranteed that plan would work, and the odds are probably stacked against success. But what’s the downside? If one side or both sides don’t meet Dumars’ demands, the Pistons would be right back where they started.

Years of practicing a flawed philosophy has backed Dumars into a corner. Now, he must walk between two overlapping lines, an impossible task. Ideally, he never would have put himself in this position, but he’s here now.

It’s too late for an ideal resolution, but Dumars should find some type of resolution.

10 Comments

  • Feb 25, 20115:23 pm
    by Lee Scruggs

    Reply

    This is a silly post and a sillier heading. First of all, every coach knows that it is a players league and they are paid millions of dollars, in significant part, to manage relationships between egotistical 20-something millionaires, themselves and each other. I don’t care where you coach, that’s the job.
    Joe has faults in the Piston’s current problems but this issue isn’t one of them. Coaches around the league know how GM’s work, especially Joe because he has been there so long. Kuester knew exactly what he was getting in to in terms of how Joe handles things. He didn’t know that the owner would die while failing have a proper succession plan and send the organization into turmoil. Joe didn’t know that either but has to deal with it.
    Joe’s job is to keep the outside influences from affecting the team–at which he has done an eh! job (drafts and acquisitions were okay). Kuester’s job is to manage the team under any number of scenarios. He has failed. So it is time for him to go. This would not have happened under Doc Rivers, Phil Jackson (as it didn’t with Kobe), Greg Popovich, George Karl (as it didn’t with Melo/Kroenke etc.), etc.
    So, to say now that Joe should intervene? Okay, after he fires Kuester, lays down the law and introduces the new coach.

    • Feb 25, 20115:41 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      This wouldn’t have happened under great coaches? Great coaches like Larry Brown?

    • Feb 25, 20118:21 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Lee Scruggs! Been a long time since you trolled here my friend!

      Your point that it is a players’ league is an obvious one. Couple questions though:

      - There were several points the last year when Kuester had clearly lost the locker room and Dumars obviously didn’t make a move. So at some point, since Dumars hasn’t felt there is cause to get rid of the guy apparently, shouldn’t he step in and tell the players, “Sorry guys. This guy is gonna be here whether you like it or not.”

      - And yes, players league, blah blah blah. Clashes between coaches and players are fairly routine. In fact, players have pretty regularly helped get coaches fired. But name me an instance where up to seven players have openly refused to practice? There’s a line that players (other than Sprewell) know not to cross, even if they hate their coach. The Pistons players obviously crossed a line. Are you saying there should be no organizational repercussions for that? Just fire the coach because they are demanding you do it? That’s just not a smart way to run a business.

  • Feb 25, 20115:40 pm
    by BIG MARV

    Reply

    Joe has to speak from the gut he dont need to be thinking about what the players will do if kuester get fired or what kuester and the players will do if he stays. He has to have a staff and player metting, air everything out even if it comes down to yelling and cursing. Then at the end of the meeting joe should tell them he will make a decision on the ongoing future of this year after the weekend. He has to put the fear of JOE DUMARS in the players its time to go old school somebody has to go period! and I mean within the next 72 hrs.

  • Feb 25, 20116:26 pm
    by steve

    Reply

    This is extremely unprofessional and it sucks for Q… but I really think this needed to happen. Q really isn’t a very good coach. How many times does he sit a Hot player… almost every game. Not for 2 minutes to catch their breath, but for 10-15 minutes. The Pistons can’t finish games, and yes some of the blame lies on the players, but Q is one of  the worst coaches I have ever seen in the final quarter of the game. The Pistons are rebuilding and they need to take a step in a different direction and I think it needs to start court side. I’m not trying to say this will solve all the problems, but it’s a step in the right direction. Q and players bump heads too often.

  • Feb 25, 20116:29 pm
    by gmehl1977

    Reply

    All i can say is that no matter who is wrong (Kuester or players) i am embarrassed to be a piston fan today. Through all the losses and bad times i have never been embarrassed like i am today.

  • Feb 25, 20117:36 pm
    by Chapman L. DeGearsone

    Reply

    If Detroit fires Kuester, who do you think is a good option?

  • Feb 25, 20119:20 pm
    by steve

    Reply

    I don’t know who a good option would be. Maybe Joe? For the rest of the season?
    There has to be some kind of change. And I think it needs to start with the coach. The player have skill (Only offensive) but they have skill.
    I wish there was an immediate fix, but there isn’t.
    Hell, we’re all amazing coaches and we know exactly what is bes tfor the team, why don’t we all just take one game for the rest of the season? I’ll even do it for free.

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