Though the Pistons are finishing a lousy season, they still have players who deserve at least consideration for post-season awards, and we’re going to tell you why. But because we don’t receive a paycheck from the Pistons, we’re not going to stop there like they would if they conducted this campaign themselves. We’re also going to evaluate whether the player actually deserves the honor.
Here’s our look at Lawrence Frank for Coach of the Year.
Making the case
Patrick Hayes: Stop laughing. I’m serious, you – stop laughing.
No, we’re not writing this just because Dan Feldman’s ‘did they tank?’ post seemed to ruffle Frank’s feathers. Yes, I get that it’s somewhat ridiculous to suggest a coach of a 24-41 team deserves coach of the year consideration.
But think about what Frank was walking into here, arguably the worst locker room for a coach in the league, one where veteran players openly derided their previous coach behind closed doors and in the media and several players were involved in an alleged boycott of a shootaround. And all of that for a coach in John Kuester whom they supposedly respected. I’d hate to see what would’ve happened to a guy they didn’t respect.
Anyway, although Richard Hamilton was jettisoned post-lockout, Frank inherited some players who had issues with the coach last season. Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey both had disagreements with Kuester, and Austin Daye was one of the players benched after the Philly boycott.
After a disastrous start to the season, Frank has the Pistons just a game under .500 in their last 41 games, he’s established an ironclad rotation (something that was one of the players’ biggest complaints about Kuester) and, with a few exceptions, the team has played hard this season. As minimal as those things sound, they are all pretty big improvements over last year.
Dan Feldman: The award is called Coach of the Year, not the The NBA’s Best Coach. The question should be, who did the best coaching job this season? Spending previous years installing and perfecting a system shouldn’t count directly for this award. I’m not sure if that puts Frank ahead of the presumed front-runners, Gregg Popovich and Tom Thibodeau, but it gets him closer to the mix. Popovich, to a degree, is relying on his coaching and player development from years past, and Thibodeau did his heavy lifting last year.
After a 4-20 start, Frank has overseen a steadily improving defense and even had the Pistons on the verge of realistically contending for a playoff spot this season. Being on the verge of contending for the playoffs isn’t exactly a noteworthy accomplishment for most teams, but after their horrid start, it was pretty incredible for these Pistons.
Patrick Hayes: OK, he has no chance.
There are things I’ve been unimpressed with – not finding out sooner what he has in Vernon Macklin, playing Prince too many minutes, not experimenting with Jonas Jerebko enough at small forward among them — but overall, Frank has done a reasonable job in his first year.
If the Pistons’ 4-20 start would’ve been even slightly less pathetic, and the Pistons would’ve challenged for a playoff spot this season. That’s not worth a big award or celebration, but it’s worthy of something I guess. A fist bump? A pat on the back? I don’t know. Give him something though.
Dan Feldman: No way.
Despite the Pistons’ aforementioned defensive improvement, they still rank 21st in the league in defensive rating. Frank shouldn’t get credit for Detroit being unprepared to start the season. Given the lockout, that wasn’t necessarily his fault, but he definitely doesn’t deserve credit. And the Pistons’ offense, surprisingly average last year, has completely fallen apart.
I tend to look at body of work over the whole season, and with a similar roster to last year, the Pistons will finish with a worse record if they lose their final game.
Frank hasn’t quite lived up to the standard I had for him when the Pistons hired him, but he’s done a satisfactory job this year. Satisfactory might be a big improvement from the John Kuester and Michael Curry eras, but that doesn’t mean Frank has stacked up with the NBA’s top coaches this year.
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