Although the headline is a tad more sympathetic than I was going for, I made a reluctant case in today’s Detroit Free Press column that Lawrence Frank‘s tenure as Pistons coach has not been a complete disaster:
It’s easy to forget just how dismal things were when Frank took over. Joe Dumars was in the midst of one of the messiest, most acrimonious dismantling of a contending team in recent NBA history. He invested in the wrong veteran All-Star as his transitional stabilizing force (Richard Hamilton instead of Chauncey Billups). He invested in the wrong free agents (Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva). He invested in the wrong serviceable young player (Rodney Stuckey over Arron Afflalo and Amir Johnson). He assembled a mismatched roster full of poorly-defined roles, duplicate skill sets, not enough defense and several players who seemed to think they were deserving of primary roles when their skill sets and production disagreed. Predictably, that did not go well, resulting in embarrassing public sniping and culminating in an shootaround boycott that would’ve been an unprecedented spectacle in modern professional sports history if, you know, the Pistons hadn’t completely fallen off the national media’s radar over the last five years.
That’s what Frank inherited. Granted, a buyout of Hamilton’s contract helped ease things, but the Pistons also still had a ways to go to eliminate a culture where it was OK for any player, no matter how poorly said player was playing, to openly question coaching and personnel decisions or whether they were being used properly. To his credit, Frank has done that. His preparedness and work ethic are renowned across the league. His players seem to respect him (or at least respect him enough to not call him a ‘buffoon’ to media). Part of the reason Frank was hired was to bring an element of professionalism that had been lacking back to Detroit’s locker room, and he’s legitimately succeeded in doing that.
Dan touched on it a bit yesterday, but as annoying as it is considering how frustrating and boring it has been to watch this Frank-coached teams at times, any evaluation of his job performance does have to include that he did accomplish one of the main things he was brought on board to do — make the locker room less of an insane hellscape. That still is probably not enough to save his job, but it at least should be considered in the discussion.
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