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Pistons shouldn’t limit themselves to coaching candidates like Nate McMillan

Me at the Detroit Free Press:

[The Pistons] hired Michael Curry, who had been an assistant coach only one year. When he failed, they were panned for hiring someone with so little experience.

Then they hired John Kuester, who had been an assistant many years. When he failed, they were panned for hiring someone with no NBA head coaching experience.

Then they hired Lawrence Frank, who had been an NBA head coach. When he failed, they were panned for hiring someone with a losing career record.

So where do they go from here? To an experienced NBA coach with a winning record, of course.

That leaves [Nate] McMillan, [Avery] Johnson, [Scott] Skiles and [Stan] Van Gundy. If McMillan — who surely will have other suitors — doesn’t work out, look for the Pistons to turn their attention to those other three.

The Pistons are looking for a coach to take over a team with a losing record, turn it into a winner and eventually guide it to a playoff-series victory. Just three Pistons coaches have done that since the franchise moved to Detroit: Rick Carlisle, Chuck Daly and Dick McGuire.

Carlisle was a Pacers assistant when the Pistons hired him.

Daly was a Philadelphia 76ers broadcaster with a career 9-32 head coaching record.

McGuire was still a Pistons player.

The lesson isn’t that a safe coaching hire is mistake. It’s that an expanded, imaginative search is important.


  • Apr 26, 20132:54 pm
    by Big Rick


    Agreed. We have to get this right. Starting to miss the playoffs, I would like root for the home team once again in the post season instead of rooting for the field against the Heat. I can’t believe I’m about to admit this, but I like Chicago’s style of play, looks eerily familiar. 

  • Apr 26, 20132:56 pm
    by vic


    I like the “Experienced Coach with winning record” category: McMillan, SVG

    But I like the “Championship level somewhere else, Can it Translate here?” category even better:
    Laimbeer, Zelly, Izzo 

    These guys are already one-name legends, they just sound more exciting.

  • Apr 26, 20133:20 pm
    by omar


    Why not give Flip Saunders a second chance?

    • Apr 26, 20133:34 pm
      by Huddy


      Because he just accepted the GM job at Minnesota.

      • Apr 26, 20133:37 pm
        by G


        You think that might be a conflict of interest?

        • Apr 26, 20133:50 pm
          by Crispus


          What if he coaches with a Mexican wrestling mask on and goes by the name “El Coach”?

          Kevin Love: You Moonlighting Flip?

          Flip (falling asleep at his desk, mumbling): Just lemme rest my eyes a sec Jonas. Go shoot some free throws and I’ll be right out.

      • Apr 26, 20134:25 pm
        by Jeremy


        Did not know that. Don’t really see Flip as a personnel guy. More of an X’s and O’s guy. 

        • Apr 26, 201310:25 pm
          by Huddy


          Apparently that reports now unconfirmed by Flip, either way he doesn’t strike me as a rebuild guy I think he would be more suited for taking over a more established situation.

  • Apr 26, 20133:41 pm
    by MIKEYDE248


    I don’t know if it’s a lack of quality coaches or a abundance of bad teams out there.  I’m hoping that the new luxury tax will even the playing field out a little more, where the teams will be more even and the coaches won’t make that much of a difference.  There are so many bad teams that I don’t think anyone who coaches them will have a chance of winning, which might be making good coaches look bad.

    I agree with BigRick when it comes down to rooting for anyone other than the Heat, Lakers or Boston.  I don’t think we have to worry too much about the Laker’s or Boston, they are taking care of it themselves.

    Joe needs to find another diamond in the rough like he did the Carlisle, except he already has 3 strike against him and can’t afford a forth, so I’m afraid he is going to play it safe and safe gave us Frank.

  • Apr 26, 20134:00 pm
    by omar


    I just don’t think McMillan is the right choice, there are much better candidates for the job.

    • Apr 26, 20134:48 pm
      by G


      Such as?

      • Apr 26, 201311:29 pm
        by omar


        Either van Gundy, Avery Johnson, Saunders.

        • Apr 27, 20134:36 am
          by willy


          would love avery johnson as coach, only  months ago he was the best goin around

        • Apr 27, 20138:20 am
          by oats


          Jeff Van Gundy is not going to be seriously considered. He’s been out of the game for awhile, but that’s not what is really going to hamper him. No, that would be him taking shots at Gores, Dumars, and the players on the Pistons after Frank got fired. Even if you think his comments were on target, and I think they weren’t, you have to know that killed his candidacy.
          I don’t get the Avery Johnson thing. He was handed a pretty loaded franchise and did pretty good with them. Of course the big thing I remember from that Dallas team under Avery was that they kept coming up short in the playoffs. His first full season was the Dirk chokes in the finals year, then the next two years they were first round outs. The first one of those was the time they were the 1 seed and lost to Baron Davis with Golden State in the first round. All in all, not exactly the best track record. I should also point out that Devin Harris was his point guard, but Harris actually played better with Lawrence Frank in NJ than he did in Dallas. Some of that is just that he was younger in Dallas, but it always felt like Avery kept Harris on too short of leash to make full use out of him. After he was fired there were reports that he was hard to get along with and his players didn’t really like him much.
          His first two years with the Nets he won 24 and 22 games. For comparisons sake, Detroit won 30 games in the buffoonery season and 25 games the other season. That’s pretty awful. After adding Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace to the roster he started off 14-14 before getting fired. Maybe .500 ball shouldn’t have gotten him canned, but by all accounts his players really hated him. It should also be noted that long time mediocre coach PJ Carlesimo has the team playing much better, with a 35-19 record to close the year. Part of that is that teams often do a bit better after firing a coach the players don’t like, but it is a strong indicator that they were also under performing under Johnson. So, why exactly is the guy still thought of as a good coaching candidate when he completely blew it with the Nets? I really don’t get why he is still this well liked. 
          Flip was really awful in Washington. He went 26-56, 23-59, and 2-15 before getting canned. I get that Washington was a mess with poor talent and a lot of headcases, but he really got worked over by a lot of guys. He had issues with Arenas, Lewis, Blatche, Young, McGee, Jamison, and John Wall while in Washington. It wasn’t pretty and he seemed to have no control over the team. He seems like a decent coach I guess, but he also seems to have a hard time handling locker rooms. Flip also doesn’t seem to be a particularly good defensive coach. The way he got fired in Detroit always felt less amicable than his Minnesota firing, so I’d bet against him coaching in Detroit with Dumars still around. Even if that wasn’t the case, I actually prefer Nate because I saw how much of a train wreck the Flip Saunders in Washington thing was. Even if you prefer Flip it seems weird to like him that much more than Nate.
          As for Stan, well, I actually prefer Stan too. Still, SVG has some issues. His star player pretty famously mocked him, a lot. Everyone has heard the Dwight Howard impersonations of Van Gundy. Plus, the way Howard pushed him out looks kind of bad. I don’t think that should hurt him that much, but it does have to be taken in to account. Of course, so does the fact that Portland had some veterans, Felton and Crawford mostly, that tried to push Nate McMillan out the door for playing slower than they liked. I’d consider Stan the stronger coaching candidate, but I wouldn’t say he is much better. I’d say he is somewhat better. He’s also the only one of the guys you listed that I agree is better than McMillan, which ultimately is why I tend to defend McMillan as the leading candidate. He’s not my favorite candidate, but he’s still a really solid one and in my top 3. He’s after Mike Budenholzer (long time assistant under Popovich), and he’s after Stan. He’s not a perfect candidate, but Nate would be a solid hire.

          • Apr 29, 20138:21 am
            by G

            To be honest, Avery Johnson & Nate McMillan is probably a wash, I just like McMillan a little more. Flip is a little better designing an offense, but he gets no respect, so I still like McMillan over him. SVG I like better than McMillan, so no argument there.

  • Apr 26, 20134:38 pm
    by piston moribund


    Joe should be able to make a more informed decision this time.  Rick , Larry, and Flip were all good hires.  Larry was the most pivotal of all the hires but Mr.D kind of mucked that up.  Since then, he’s had two bad hires, granted, the trade for AI kind of ruined it for Curry and then the environment got toxic for Q and poisoned the well.  Frank technically is not really Joe’s hire so he gets a pass.  It also would seem that since he was not Joe’s guy, he really didn’t have any pull with Frank so maybe that why no one really heard from Joe the entire season.  It would stand to reason, like any other business, the person that does the hiring also dictates the agenda.  In hindsight, the lack of input from Joe seems to make more sense, either way, it does not matter now, this would still make this one the most important hire by far.  So it probably seems sensible to take his time.  Strangely confident that this will work out.  Two roster pieces are set for the long haul, if Bullwinkle’s D improves.  Thats a good solid foundation for any team to build on.

    • Apr 26, 20134:53 pm
      by MIKEYDE248


      Hopefully draft day will bring another piece. Maybe even one more in free agency or at least a couple of good roll players.

  • Apr 26, 20137:16 pm
    by frankie d


    agree wholeheartedly that detroit should not limit itself to just the old vet coaches who have an appropriate “resume”.
    lots of the best coaches out there didn’t have a real track record of success as a head coach, and teams took a chance on them.
    if you’re right, and hire carlisle or thibideau, you look like a genius.
    if you’re wrong and hire kuester or mike dunlap, then you have to suffer the consequences.  but gm’s get paid big bucks to make those decisions.
    my choices would be – of the probable candidates – either mcmillan or van gundy.  both of those have shown enough to reasonably expect that they would be able to have success with the current detroit roster.
    my real favorite, however, is derek fisher, a guy who will be a coach, probably sooner rather than later.
    and when it happens and when he is successful, other teams will wonder why they didn’t do something out of the box and hire a just-retired player with 5 title rings and a bunch of clutch last minute shots over the course of his career.  fisher’s profile just screams head coaching material – former successful point guard who got more out of his mediocre talent than you might have expected – and my guess is that he’ll end up on the laker’s sideline before too long. 
    would love for joe d to take that kind of gamble with a young guy and let that young coach grow up with his new team.  to me, if joe d could pull that off, he’d make up for all of these years in the wilderness. 

  • Apr 27, 201310:02 am
    by Wolverines23


    Pistons bad boy John Salley thinks we should hire Brian Shaw!
    I just hope were able to get an interview with Shaw. Just reading reports about him, the respect he has within the league seems to be fairly positive and encouraging. As much as I like Lindsey Hunter, I think we should hire Hunter as an Assistant for a few years, and groom him for a future heading coaching job, he’s just not ready/experienced yet. 

    • Apr 27, 201311:02 pm
      by frankie d


      i don’t know…
      love salley…but, as a player he left much to be desired.  if he’d had rodman’s commitment to excellence and his focus, salley would have been an all-star power forward every year he played.  incredibly talented, but…
      actually,  if john salley told me about a party or women, i’d listen.  his parties were legendary, back in the bad boys era.  the most amazing collection of female talent one could ever imagine.  everyone knew that if salley was giving a party, the talent would be so deep, you’d have to be a total f-up to not at least have a chance to pull something nice. i’m sure salley had the cream of the crop, and from my perspective, back then, the crop was incredibly fine.
      so, if i was looking for a party and looking for a few fine babes, salley would be my guy.  heck yes, i’d listen to him.
      coaches?  BB issues?  not so sure.
      maybe he’s right about shaw.  i have to admit that my prejudice about him stems from the fact that i think he underachieved his entire career, but maybe that does not take into consideration his growth since his nba playing career.   i’d still rather beg derek fisher to retire and take my job, rather than go with shaw, but maybe salley knows something i don’t about shaw.
      like i said, if he was talking women, take his advice, no questions asked.
      coaches?  not so sure. 

      • Apr 29, 20138:24 am
        by G


        I think Shaw is more deserving of a shot right now than Lindsey, but I really don’t like either that much. Agree on Salley, but he’s got some knowledge. When it comes to assistant coaches, I tend to listen to what the retired pros have to say (as long as they don’t have a dog in the fight). I think insider knowledge is even more important in that case, because most of us have no idea what they contribute.

  • Apr 27, 20135:38 pm
    by Hardy


    I like all the responses here. I veiw it this way since we had a few coaches that couldn’t control the team. This is a young team that has had every chance of making the playoff run but choked/underachieved what was right in front of their faces. I believe that now we should hire a Scott Skiles type who is going to push these young guys into playing hard. The only player that might not be on board for Skiles would be Charlie V because of their Milawaukee years. It was very agonizing watching these young Pistons play and give away leads then lose.

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