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Detroit Pistons Coach Dreams: Bill Laimbeer


Age: 54

Current Job: Assistant Coach, Minnesota Timberwolves (2009-present)

Previous experience:

  • Head Coach, Detroit Shock (2002-09)


Laimbeer had a very successful run with the Shock, guiding them to three titles, including a worst-to-first turnaround.

As a player, he was tough and smart. He was never the most athletic, but he still had a long career.

He has a bit of NBA experience after working with the Timberwolves this year. His specialty is their big men, and Kevin Love and Darko Milicic had fine seasons.

Laimbeer is the fan favorite, and he’d generate buzz in a community that has become disillusioned with the Pistons. But would that boon last with the notoriously media-unfriendly Laimbeer?

Hiring Laimbeer would be pretty unconventional considering the Timberwolves’ 17-65 record last year. Of the 28 first-time head coaches hired in the previous 10 years who served as NBA assistants the year before, only Erik Spoelstra helped his team to a worse record the year before becoming a head coach. The Heat went 15-67 before promoting Spoelstra to head coach, and obviously that worked well.

Mindlessly hiring assistants on good teams and ignoring assistants on bad teams hinders general managers from finding the best head coaches. Of course, helping a team succeed indicates good coaching, but hiring GMs should be willing to look beyond that.


If Laimbeer had spent his career with the Celtics rather than the Pistons, should Detroit hire him? If the answer is no, the Pistons have no business hiring him. Once someone becomes a head coach, the team he played for won’t matter. He’ll have to sink or swim on his own coaching ability, not some sentimentality. In the previous 10 years, six teams have hired first-time head coaches who played for that team. All but one of them struggled:

  • Michael Curry, Pistons – failed
  • Reggie Theus, Kings – failed
  • Larry Krystkowiak, Bucks – failed
  • Avery Johnson, Mavericks – succeeded
  • Frank Johnson, Suns – failed
  • Bill Cartwright, Bulls – failed

I don’t think this is a coincidence. Teams who hired these coaches were distracted with a meaningless criterion, and they largely ignored relevant shortcomings.

Laimbeer has just two years of NBA coaching experience. Although that shouldn’t disqualify him, what evidence exists about his NBA-coaching acumen?

Just because he was a fiery player doesn’t mean he would command the respect of his players. Plenty of guys played hard in the NBA, but getting guys to play hard is a different skill. To a degree, a team takes the personality of its coach. But does Laimbeer know how to exude toughness from the coach’s seat without alienating his players? Coaches must walk that line. Players can just be tough.

Almost all of his coaching experience came in the WNBA, and as Patrick explained, maybe that doesn’t translate seamlessly to the NBA.


Bill Laimbeer has expressed a desire to become an NBA head coach. He realized coaching the Shock could take him only so far, and he took the proactive step of leaving the team to become an NBA assistant. His résumé is improving, and as a carrot, the Pistons should take him more seriously as a candidate than they did for their last two openings.

But Detroit shouldn’t hire him. He’s not ready.



  • Jun 9, 20114:06 pm
    by Jason


    “But Detroit shouldn’t hire him. He’s not ready.”
    Guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. He has such a long list of accomplishments on and off the floor, you cannot discredit what he could bring to this team. The losing record last season had little to do with the “Assistant” coach, and everything to do with a lousy team.. He’s won as a player, he’s won as a head coach, and he WOULD demand respect immediately. He’s friends with Dumars, and is a Pistons legend.. He would have at least a couple years to figure things out, being we are still in a rebuilding phase.. All that said, he wouldn’t be expected to come in and win the championship next season.. There is no better time to hire a guy like Laimbeer.. He IS ready, and could grow with this team as we attempt to build.. MOST importantly, the impact he can have on Greg Monroe, and the Big Man that we get in this years draft. (Hopefully).

    While I agree a Mike Woodson would be a better fit, he’s going to be coveted by a number of teams, and will demand a much higher paycheck then Laimbeer. Maybe that doesn’t bother Gores, but IMO we shouldn’t be overpaying a coach, before the Palace starts to fill up its seats again.. Just my 2 pennies.

    • Jun 9, 20117:20 pm
      by Dan Feldman


      How can you so quickly dismiss last season as the Timberwolves not having enough talent, but still credit Laimbeer for the Shock’s titles without acknowledging they might have had a ton of talent?

      • Jun 11, 20113:22 am
        by Jason


        Your way too far into my comments. I’m just saying, you can’t put it on the assistant coach when a team, with mediocre talent doesn’t compete well. In all fairness, his job was to work with the Bigs.. I’d say Kevin Love averaging 20/15, and Darko playing better then he ever has (Still not that good, i digress), I think he’s done a good job. Your argument makes me feel even stronger about hiring him.. Make the right moves, sign the right players – and we got a coach who is proven to know how to excel with good teams, with decent talent.. How is that a knock on him? Sounds pretty good to me! More importantly, look at the successful Shock teams – YOUNG players.. (Primarily). Again, pretty good traits in my book.
        More importantly, I don’t think you are giving him enough credit for the “Worst to First” accomplishment. Yes, they had a better team, but it’s NEVER happened in professional sports. Ever. Let alone as a first time coach. I’d say that’s a “Pro” that deserves more then a half sentence, and IMO leads me to believe he’s a bit more ready then you believe. More then that. he didn’t just have a fluke season, he won two more titles, becoming the winning-est post season coach in the WNBA. And i understand WNBA is much different, but regardless of how you want to view it, he has proven successful as a head coach. He has proven he can help players excel. He is known for his toughness, and was a defensive machine. He was extremely smart as a player, by MANY accounts. As you know, he wasn’t the most athletic guy in the NBA.. His toughness, and IQ allowed him to be successful in the league.
        What does it have to do with his coaching? Well, possibly nothing at all. But i’d like to think that it sure can help to translate to how you are viewed by others.. Any we all know we could use a tough nose guy in the locker room in Detroit, that will demand respect. I’d like to think it wouldn’t even have to be “Demanded”, it will be assumed, and inevitable should he get hired.

  • Jun 9, 20114:14 pm
    by Larry


    I think he has worked very hard to position himself for the spot.  He was a self-made player and a really smart guy.  However, as I recall, he sort of sneered at practice.  I wonder if that is a factor in this.  He beats hell out of Lawrence Frank or Kelvin Sampson!  I’m guessing Woodson will be the “safe” choice and I wouldn’t really argue with it.  A three year caretaker spot, probably, regardless, unless the suits at Platinum get impatient and broom GM and his coach, sooner.

  • Jun 9, 20114:21 pm
    by Patrick Hayes


    I would add that I don’t think Detroit is ready either. Let’s face it: Laimbeer or any coach isn’t going to walk in and turn this team into a successful bunch that plays tough defense. The roster is still flawed. It will be hard to fix those flaws in one offseason, particularly if there’s a lockout as expected.

    The Pistons are still a team in transition, and I’m not convinced that this coaching hire is going to be the person that is still coaching the team when they come out of it. I’d like to see Laimbeer get a better assistant’s job somewhere outside of Minnesota, then get opportunities as a head coach elsewhere first. It would be way too much pressure on him coming in to turn around this team, and anyone who coaches the team is going to have enough pressure trying to rebound from back to back 50 loss seasons with essentially the same team as last year.

  • Jun 9, 20114:25 pm
    by omar


    please just hire kelvin sampson!!! he is a  great  coach in a great  defense minded coach i like him alot and he a great fit for our team in we need to get back to the defense side of the ball anyway.detriot basketball please hire kelvin sampon!!!! lets go detriot

  • Jun 9, 20114:33 pm
    by James


    Any guy who can come in with little to no coaching experience and turn around a professional basketball team from a worst to first finish and lead it to three champiosnhips out of the four years he coached has gotten my attention!

    Hire the guy. Altogether, he’d be comming in with 5 NBA titles (Two as a NBA player and 3 as an WNBA coach). Give him the job, he’ll figure it out. Who cares about being media friendly as long as his own players respect him and are willing to play for him is what all that matters. Besides, with five rings on his hand, he’d be able to pound his players into submission anyway.

    • Jun 9, 201111:25 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      Pound his players into submission? You think that will work in the NBA? Seriously? Do you watch the league? Name one NBA coach, other than Popovich who gets amazing buy-in from the most humble star of the modern era, who can operate with that kind of style? And hell, even Popovich has become incredibly flexible with Parker’s tendency to freelance and Ginobili’s at times wild shot selection.

  • Jun 9, 20116:09 pm
    by Keri Laimbeer


    Here we go again!

    • Jun 10, 20112:42 pm
      by Murph


      Ms. Laimbeer….since you’re the only one here with any real knowledge of the situation, I’d be interested to know what your opinion is. 

      Do you have any knowledge as to why your father has been passed over numerous times for a coaching position with the Pistons, even after his outrageously successful stint with the Shock? 

      Also, is it safe to assume that your father and Joe Dumars have a “chilly” relationship?

  • Jun 9, 20116:27 pm
    by Joe Dumars


    So because Laimbeer commands respect, hes going to get respect? Hes not going to get respect if his communication, game planning, and Xs and Os are terrible.

  • Jun 9, 20116:47 pm
    by bob bayer


    <p>Dan Feldman wrote:</p>

    <p>Bill Laimbeer has expressed a desire to become an NBA head coach. He realized coaching the Shock could take him only so far, and he took the proactive step of leaving the team to become an NBA assistant. His resume?is improving, and as a carrot, the Pistons should take him more seriously as a candidate than they did for their last two openings.</p>

    <p>But Detroit shouldnthire him. He’s not ready.</p>

    <p>Where were you Mr. Feldman when Curry and Kuester were hired? Not a word out of you then .. Wonder why ..  You saved your strongest anti-coach message for Bill Laimbeer … Could it be because you know fans want this guy for his smartness and toughness and you dont want to look bad for supporting these idiots we had for coaches for the past 3 years?  Could it be you are just covering Joe’s butt because you know he would never hire a rival Bad Boy sibling? And you also think Bill would be horrible with the press? Why do you even mention that?  What problems did Bill L. ever have with the Shock, in 6 years of coaching or last year with the Wolves? That is just searching for reasons that dont exist … Methinks Bill Laimbeer burned you with smart answers to stupid questions you asked him as a young cub reporter and you still havent gotten over this .. 3 championship teams coached by Bill Laimbeer and their Big Men at Minn. excelled thanks to him ….</p>
    You wrote .. As a carrot .. we should take Laimbeer more seriously … Pure Gibberish… and unprofessional bias ..

  • Jun 9, 201110:28 pm
    by Youssif


    Why is nobody taking a look at Maurice Cheeks? I wonder if geographic disposition in former gigs removes individuals from our collective consciousness. All the names being thrown around are Eastern Conference names, if you haven’t noticed. I know Minnesota plays in the West, but we’re not talking about Laimbeer because of his Minnesota stint. Look, I’m not saying Cheeks is the long-term answer, but he could definitely have an impact and potentially be the guy who finally converts Stuckey into a legitimate point guard.
    Ultimately, history has shown that Dumars doesn’t believe that a coach matters too much as long as he doesn’t turn out to be a complete disaster (Q, Curry). Given that, he’ll probably pass on Laimbeer if for nothing else than the acknowledgment that if the guy takes over at this point, chances are he’ll be fired before the Pistons establish themselves as a contender once again. I don’t want to see Laimbeer fired and I think that’s the greatest hesitation a lot of us have with jumping on his bandwagon. Now how about hiring him as a head assistant?
    Also, has Jerry Sloan officially retired?

    • Jun 9, 201111:27 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      I believe Cheeks is going to be interviewed by the Raptors.

      I think part of the reason no one is interviewing him as seriously as some assistants is that Cheeks actually does have a track record as a head coach. He wasn’t great in Portland or Philly.

      • Jun 9, 201111:52 pm
        by acr


        Cheeks has a better winning percentage as a head coach than both Frank and Woodson…
        I love Laimbeer, but he isn’t ready yet…

        • Jun 10, 20118:41 am
          by Patrick Hayes


          I don’t think Cheeks is a bad coach, and he might be a better coach than Frank or Woodson. But he’s also had two jobs. He took over a playoff team in Portland that progressively fell apart in his four years there, then he took over in Philly and had four sub-.500 seasons.

          Not saying all those things were his fault, but Woodson took over an Atlanta team that was terrible at the start and Frank’s NJ team was terrible at the end. Those were also their only head coaching jobs, so I think they are a tad more in demand than Cheeks right now. But as I said in the comment above, Cheeks is getting consideration in Toronto and although he wasn’t great in Portland or Philly, he’s close to .500 as a head coach and he’s well-respected, so he’ll probably get another shot, since most coaches get recycled often in the NBA.

  • Jun 9, 201111:09 pm
    by vic


    i agree with james…youve got to be able to discern a golden touch
    untalented player – pillar of 2 championships
    wnba coach – worst to first, 3 out of 4 championships
    big man coach – love breaks records, darko has best year
    i say buy low sell high.
    if you’ve got 2 eyes you can see he’s a leader.
    plus the fans want him, and he’s cheap. ez decision.

    • Jun 9, 201111:30 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      See, but here’s the point from Dan’s post that is being ignored:

      If Laimbeer wasn’t a Detroit legend — and he is, no one is denying that or what he accomplished as a player here — would he be such a can’t miss candidate to fans? What if his success came in, like Dan said, Boston? Same career, same championship experience, same everything, just different city. Then, same coaching experience post playing — WNBA success with a fantastic team, assistant with an atrocious NBA team.

      Would you be so vociferously behind a candidate with that resumé?

      • Jun 10, 20116:56 am
        by Murph


        “If Laimbeer wasn’t a Detroit legend — and he is, no one is denying that or what he accomplished as a player here — would he be such a can’t miss candidate to fans?”

        And why in the world would Joe give fans what they want, when he can shove clowns like Mike Curry and John Kuester down their throats?  (extreme sarcasm) 

        • Jun 10, 20118:46 am
          by Patrick Hayes


          So that’s the standard? Fans want him, so Dumars should hire him?

          I’m not saying he isn’t ready, he could be great. But it’s crazy to act like he’s some sure thing.

          • Jun 10, 20119:30 am
            by Murph

            “So that’s the standard? Fans want him, so Dumars should hire him?”

            Well, who the fans want shouldn’t be the only standard for hiring a head coach, but it should be a big consideration…unless of course fan support and attendance doesn’t matter to the Pistons. 

            Now that I think about it, looking at the attendance figures for last season (the Pistons ranked 18th out of 30 NBA teams in attendance), maybe fan support doesn’t matter to the Pistons.  (more sarcasm)


          • Jun 10, 20119:39 am
            by Patrick Hayes

            I just can’t imagine ever paying money to go watch a team based on who the coach is.

          • Jun 10, 201111:31 am
            by Dan Feldman

            Fans want to see a winner. Even there’s an early bump in ticket sales because of Laimbeer — which, like Patrick, I doubt would happen — it wouldn’t last if the team loses. Hiring the best coach, regardless of how fans perceive him at the time he’s hired, is the best way to build fan support.

          • Jun 11, 20113:36 am
            by Jason

            I really don’t think anyone is acting like it’s a for sure thing.. What we are is a bunch of hopeful fans who have watched the Pistons go from teh top to bottom, with no sign of light ahead.. We are hopeful that with the bad realationships that have developed with the last two coaches, a guy like Laimbeer would ensure this doesn’t happen. Maybe any other team in the NBA wouldn’t focus on that, but No other team had a team orchestrated walkout last year, no other team has gone back to back coaches in recent years with chemistry issues. No other team goes through the amount of coaches as Joe has.. Maybe it’s those reasons that we are FINALLY all opening up to the fact that a Pistons legend might just be the very thing we need..
            And the analogy of if he was from another town, we wouldn’t like him is off base.. I don’t see a whole lot of people here saying “Lets hire Isiah Thomas!”. Yes, he’s from here, but we’ve seen some of the issues he’s had. We are much more hopeful that the GOOD expieriences that Laimbeer HAS had, could potentially translate to the NBA. Do we know that it will?? Of course not.. But he seems much more of a sure thing then our last couple stints..
            And just another note, you guys both seem to think having head coaching experience in the NBA is the end all be all. Sure it helps, but most the guys we are talking about have never won a title. Isn’t that the measure of “greatness”? If you have head coaching experience, but haven’t won a title, or don’t have perfect track records, why does that make you a better candidate? Just because you’ve coached a team? I don’t like that logic anymore then I like the “Blind Hope” that many of us have of Laimbeer.,
            You’re right, he may not be a sure thing.. BUT, neither is ANY other coach out there… EVERY coach is a gamble, but for all we know, Laimbeer could be the next Phil Jackson.. (Joking..)
            We will never know until someone gives him a shot, i just think there is no better time for the Pistons to take that gamble.. Hell, we’ve gambled greatly the last two choices.. What’s to keep Joe from doing so again? (Especially if fans are on board!!)

  • Jun 10, 20115:14 am
    by Murph


    Feldman wrote:

    “Laimbeer has just one year of NBA coaching experience. Although that shouldn’t disqualify him, what evidence exists about his NBA-coaching acumen?”

    Laimbeer has two years of NBA assistant coahcing experience.  He was hired by Rambis in 2009, and coached the 09-10 and the 10-11 seasons.

    It’s too bad Joe Dumars and the Pistons are going to pass on Laimbeer again.  He deserved the job long before Curry and Kuester, who were both disasters.

    • Jun 10, 20118:52 am
      by Patrick Hayes


      I could accept an argument that he deserved it over Curry. But Kuester? Granted, Kuester turned out to be a disaster. But two years ago, Kuester was one of the most respected assistants in the league, a guy who was a key member of the staff of one of the best teams in the league and a guy who had ties to Detroit because of his time on Larry Brown’s staff here. Kuester paid his dues and deserved a shot as a head coach. Granted, now that it’s over, I wish they would’ve hired someone else, but at the time, he wasn’t a terrible hire.

    • Jun 10, 201111:29 am
      by Dan Feldman


      Thanks, I fixed it. Doesn’t change how I feel about Laimbeer, though. Two years as an assistant on a terrible team doesn’t show he can coach in the NBA.

  • Jun 10, 20118:25 am
    by Reaction


    Kinda off topic, but did anyone else see this:
    Irving dropped rankings.. is that even possible lol.. if that is anywhere near true Detroit should try to get that 2nd pick

    • Jun 10, 20118:49 am
      by Patrick Hayes


      Wow. Wow. I can’t believe anyone would have Kyrie second, let alone third.

      But for what it’s worth, Chad Ford and DraftExpress, who both are a bit more credible than NBADraft.net, have Irving at No. 1 still.

  • Jun 10, 201110:58 am
    by vic


    yes he’d be a top candidate if he had the same track record for another team, another wnba team, another set  of big men.
    thats my main point, to look at his results. his name brand is just extra credit, which also happens to be worth money in this area… not to mention he’s probably the lowest cost option, and low risk/high reward rebuilding strategy
    but with all that said, i’d be satisfied with sampson or casey. i just think Bill would be the smartest option. Culture means something, and it has to come from somewhere.

    • Jun 10, 201111:27 am
      by Patrick Hayes


      If he’d be a top candidate, why is Detroit the only team that has asked to interview him for a head coaching job then?

      I think he’s a solid candidate. But there are just as many questions about him as there are any other assistant with little or no head coaching experience. And honestly, him getting his first shot in Detroit could be really good or really bad. It could add pressure to succeed. Let’s face, all of his fans will be expecting him to infuse his toughness, personality, IQ, etc. into this team. What if it doesn’t happen right away or the team continues to lose for a couple more seasons? I would argue he wouldn’t have that pressure to succeed immediately elsewhere. He could be given more leeway to grow as a coach.

  • Jun 10, 201111:25 am
    by Scott


    All I know is this, we need a coach who is tough-minded, who can make his players tough-minded, and instills some form of defense and discipline into his players. I’m not sure if Laimbeer is the one, but that is the kind of coach we need.

  • Jun 10, 201111:33 am
    by Cliff


    is there any possibilty that we’ll snag laimbeer as an assitant coach?

    • Jun 10, 201111:48 am
      by Dan Feldman


      It’s possible, but I’d say it’s usually not a good idea to have someone whom most fans want to be head coach. That just undermines the current head coach. Players might tune out the head coach, knowing Laimbeer has more pull than a typical assistant. It certainly could work, but the risk of dysfunction is too high.

  • Jun 10, 20112:40 pm
    by joejoejoe


    Doc Rivers got a coaching job as an announcer, as did Pat Riley. Now Mark Jackson is getting a shot too. The idea that Bill Laimbeer doesn’t have enough experience to be considered is crazy. The WNBA experience on his resume is unique and probably works against him but that says more about NBA execs than it does Bill Laimbeer. He’s also got some GM-type experience in his last job that has to threaten existing GMs. I don’t know how Bill Laimbeer would do as an NBA coach, nobody does, but he has done enough to get a shot as coach. Why can is Kevin McHale a good choice for a smart GM in Houston, after compiling a series of horrible teams, violating NBA rules with the Joe Smith debacle, firing two of his own coaches and having to step in as interim coach? Two small sample sizes as interim coach are worth more than Laimbeer’s WNBA championships, dedication as assistant coach, and work ethic that made a slow tall guy a borderline HOF center?
    Bill Laimbeer scares timid people. Just like NFL teams should almost always go for it on 4th down but don’t because of the fear of standing out, NBA teams discount Laimbeer’s unique resume and well known strong personality. But successful organizations should never fear hiring strong personalities who are brilliant and Bill Laimbeer should get a head coaching job, if not in Detroit than someplace that doesn’t fear change.

  • Jun 10, 20112:41 pm
    by Ron Fraley Sr


    There should be no question that Bill Laimeer should be the  head Pistons coach going into the 2011 season.

    He emulates confidence with His every Move.

    Bill Laimbeer Passes leadership to His strongest Player and they, in turn pass it on to the Younger Players.

    Rick Mahorn would definitely be hired as His assistant.

    Bill Laimbeer exploits the weakness of every opponent He coaches against.

    The enthusiasm of the Detroit Pistons Fans would finally return to respectfully..along with an improved Win-Loss record.

    Sign on the Dotted Line Bill


    • Jun 10, 20113:16 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      Why should there be “no” question?

      No one here is saying he doesn’t deserve an interview and serious consideration. But there is no one on the Pistons are currently talking to who is a can’t-miss candidate. They all have positives and negatives, and that is really the whole point of this series we’ve been doing.

      If Laimbeer has more positives in the interview process than the others, I have no problem with his hiring. But I don’t know how anyone can consider him automatically the best candidate for this job without further evaluation.

  • Jun 14, 20111:50 pm
    by trav


    Yeah, he’s not ready!….. Lets let him be a assistant coach for 10 years, develop assistant attributes and skills, then hire him…..  Just like John Kuester!  good idea.  Lambs is ready now, the pistons arn’t going anywhere anytime soon anyway.

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