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John Kuester explains why he doesn’t communicate more with his players

John Kuester, via Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, explained why he doesn’t communicate his rotation changes to his players ahead of time:

"That’s why you keep telling people that you don’t tell a player that he’s out of the rotation or whatever, because anybody that has a uniform on has got to be ready to play," Kuester said. "So if you tell somebody he’s not going to play, then all of a sudden things like Will Bynum; guys get hurt and that’s why I keep communicating with you guys about that."

In life, I think being in control of everything you do is an admirable quality. Do everything on purpose.

Make a wrong turn because you incorrectly thought your destination was that way? That’s a problem. Make a wrong turn because you had no idea where you’re going? That’s a bigger problem.

I think this is particularly relevant to coaching. I can accept a coach’s deliberate decision being wrong more than I can accept a coach who didn’t recognize a decision needed to be made.

I always though Kuester didn’t communicate well with his players solely because he lacked the awareness to see the necessity of doing so. But that hasn’t been the case at all. He a plan, and in almost any scenario, that’s better than working from obliviousness.

That said, I completely disagree with Kuester’s handling of this situation. A coach can make his players feel comfortable with their assignments and still preach being ready at all times.

Kuester didn’t do this by accident, which is admirable. That his actions are reasoned and intentional show me he’s a better coach than I thought.

But after executing a plan, the next step is executing a successful plan – and Kuester is nowhere near that.

12 Comments

  • Apr 12, 20112:36 pm
    by Marvin Jones

    Reply

    That to me is no communication at all, what’s the problem with looking a guy in the eye and telling him you’re making a change, your reasoning and that you’ll see how it goes but be ready if your name is called. I think the player would appreciate it more and respect you more if you actually talked directly to him about his situation as opposed to him figuring it out by what practice jersey he’s asked to wear right before a game. That’s why the players always say that nobody told them anything and they are miffed about it and I can understand why. 

  • Apr 12, 20113:56 pm
    by brgulker

    Reply

    Clearly, Kuester’s the type of coach that thinks the rotation should change based on match ups. I think he’s right in that players should always be ready, but I think it’s more than fair to communicate your rotation as part of your strategy for any given opponent.

  • Apr 12, 20114:17 pm
    by TealBurgundyBlackGold

    Reply

    If a player isn’t playing hard, or is simply being outmatched – absolutely pull them, yes.  If a team is this bad, and not everyone always tries – it is good to mix things up, yes.  What I don’t get is when he brings people off the bench when they’re on hot streaks.  Before Stuckey did his second big insubordination of the year, he was on a roll, and was put behind Bynum just because.  It’s no wonder these players do what they want with Q, planning to have a bad plan doesn’t make it a good plan.
    No matter how good Stuckey is, he doesn’t belong in Detroit.  He saw too much of Prince and Rip doing what they wanted and nobody else saying anything.  Even if Rip and Tay are gone next season, Stuckey will be the longest tenured, big shot on the team assuming Ben Wallace is gone.  It will officially be Stuckey’s team assuming it isn’t now, and the last thing this kid needs are those sort of entitling thoughts put in his head, barring we get some sort of authoritative presence that can handle him be it a new Captain, coach, GM who COMMANDS respect.

    • Apr 12, 20116:48 pm
      by Tim

      Reply

      It will only be seen as Stuckey’s team if he can establish himself as arguably the team’s best player. If Monroe clearly outplays him, it will be seen as Monroe’s team. Kinda like how Chicago isn’t seen as Deng’s team.

      • Apr 12, 20119:07 pm
        by TealBurgundyBlackGold

        Reply

        I hope you’re right – I just think it’s the way Dumars has openly said he’s the future, or, to be more correct “A cornerstone of the franchise”.
         
        I hope I’m wrong, I just hope he hasn’t taken too much of Rip’s hot-headedness or Tayshaun’s poor attitude.

  • Apr 12, 201111:12 pm
    by Fennis

    Reply

    DF — Do you really believe Kuester’s explanation? Simply because he said it?
     
    First of all, who is this guy to be reinventing the communication wheel? Is John Kuester really the one to be introducing a radical new philosophy of player readiness? Clearly the results are nothing short of catastrophic. We’ve witnessed perhaps the worst player-coach relationship in the last two decades in the NBA. [Everyone wants to take the players to task -- and they should. But you can't convince me or any reasonable person that the collection of guys in the '10-'11 locker room is the worst collection of characters in the last two decades. Kuester is a *huge* part of the problem. And if he can't recognize the failures of his communication style then he is a buffoon.]
     
    Yet Kuester is still peddling this so-called strategy of keeping players ready? Really? No second thoughts on that one? Wouldn’t do it any differently the second time around? Absurd. And I don’t buy it for a second.
     
    By all accounts the man is timid. I think I read somewhere that the players think that he’s afraid of them. If that is true, of course he’ll have a canned explanation for avoiding difficult conversations. Are we to simply hear his explanation and nod our heads as though it’s the truth. I mean, if the man is avoiding the “your out of the rotation” conversation because he’s afraid of catching player wrath, would he admit that to the press? Let’s be real here. If you remember his opening press conference, the man was so nervous he could barely string two sentences together. I remember Michael Rosenberg saying something to the effect of, “I hope this guy is ready for prime time.” Clearly, he is not, and his refusal to have the tough conversations necessary for good communication across the team is yet another example.
     
     
     

    • Apr 13, 20119:01 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      The veteran players also said that they thought Flip Saunders was afraid of them after Saunders was fired. Perhaps there’s a trend in that locker room?

      Kuester is definitely not the right coach for this team. But he’s far from the only problem when it comes to healthy communication.

    • Apr 13, 20113:21 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      Fennis, yes, I do believe him. I think you make several good points, and I’ll address them individually:

      First of all, who is this guy to be reinventing the communication wheel? Is John Kuester really the one to be introducing a radical new philosophy of player readiness? Clearly the results are nothing short of catastrophic.

      I don’t think this tactic is unprecedented. Without question, the results have been awful for this team. Just because it’s the wrong strategy with this team doesn’t mean it’s the wrong strategy everywhere. For the most part, the veterans, who feel entitled to (at least help) steer the ship themselves feel entitled to know their roles ahead of time, and the young players don’t. Maybe this team was just too old for a strategy that would work better for a younger team.

      Also keep in mind, we’re only talking about short-term effects. If in future seasons, the veterans feel a little less entitled, wouldn’t that make Kuester at least partially successful in this regard? And what if the young players are more ready to play through uncertainty of any kind in future seasons? Wouldn’t that make Kuester at least partially successful in this regard?

      Yet Kuester is still peddling this so-called strategy of keeping players ready? Really? No second thoughts on that one? Wouldn’t do it any differently the second time around?

      Who said Kuester wouldn’t adjust next time? I guess, maybe he implied it. But I can see some value to the notion of sticking with your philosophy for the duration of the season and adjusting in the summer. I’m obviously speculating about how Kuester would or wouldn’t adjust, but so are you.

      I mean, if the man is avoiding the “your out of the rotation” conversation because he’s afraid of catching player wrath, would he admit that to the press? Let’s be real here.

      I’ll meet you in the middle here. Is avoiding those difficult conversations part of Kuester’s motivation for not telling players their spot in the rotation? Probably. But maybe Kuester is aware of one of his limitations and came up with a strategy he thought would hide that and would help the team. I think if Kuester legitimately believe telling players their exact roles ahead of time was 100 percent the best way to run a team, he’d suck it up and do it, even if it was difficult for him. But like I’ve written above, there’s a gray area where it might actually make sense to operate this way. I think there’s a good chance Kuester used that gray area to justify to himself why he wouldn’t tell players their exact roles.

      Is that so different than an offensive-minded coach delegating defensive responsibility to an assistant? If that head coach thought it was imperative, he’d run the defense himself. But he doesn’t, so he avoids a weakness.

      If you remember his opening press conference, the man was so nervous he could barely string two sentences together.  I remember Michael Rosenberg saying something to the effect of, “I hope this guy is ready for prime time.”

      I was at that opening press conference, and it’s a pretty big exaggeration to say he looked so nervous, he couldn’t put sentences together.

      And don’t bring that clown Rosenberg into this. (Kidding, kidding. I’m a big fan of him and his work). But if you want to read my take on Kuester’s hiring at the time, here it is:

      http://www.pistonpowered.com/2009/07/kuester-seems-like-a-classic-no-2-but-hes-worth-a-shot/

       

  • Apr 12, 201111:18 pm
    by Fennis

    Reply

    I just want to add one thing. Did *anyone* even *suggest* that Stuckey was a bad guy before Kuester? A malcontent? A diva? The guy was a model Piston before Kuester and now he’s a total mess. Great with the media, great with fans, great in the community, and no reported issues with Flip or Curry. All of a sudden he’s a villain who should be run out of town?
     
    Under Kuester’s tenure we’ve seen some very strange things. A worse atmosphere on the team than under Curry, and I didn’t think that was possible. Stuckey’s behavior has been inexcusable, but if I had to bet on whether the source of the problem is who Stuckey is as a person or who John Kuester is as a person, the smart money is on Kuester.

    • Apr 13, 20119:00 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      It’s not that he’s a malcontent. I don’t think he is.

      But I do think, because of the way the organization treated him from day one, basically as some sort of franchise savior, it has hurt his development. He’s a solid NBA player with the physical tools to be a really good one. Although he may not have had high profile fights with coaches prior to this season, he also didn’t show much development as a point guard.

      Kuester is far from blameless. He’s been a bad fit who hasn’t helped the development of most of the young players (although he’s done a fantastic job with Monroe). But, based on how Stuckey is closing the season, perhaps the frustration of this season was exactly what he needed to light a fire in him and make him push himself harder.

  • Apr 13, 20111:15 pm
    by Brad

    Reply

    I know this column generally takes its cues from the Free Press, Detroit News, etc…but I thought it was funny how an article about Kuester not communicating started with John Kuester going through an intermediary for this web article. Just got a chuckle. Good stuff

  • Apr 13, 20119:26 pm
    by Fennis

    Reply

    DF — That column on Kuester was prophetic. How do you hire a head coach who had to be encouraged to speak up as an assistant? Kue is borderline anti-social.
     
    Seems like a nice guy though.

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