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Pistons to interview J.B. Bickerstaff

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

Houston Rockets assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff will interview for the Detroit Pistons‘ head coaching job on Wednesday, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

J.B. Bickerstaff is perhaps best know for being Bernie Bickerstaff’s son and a piece of one of David Kahn’s harebrained schemes. Jerry Zgoda of the StarTribune:

The idea with hiring Bickerstaff — 67 and a head coach with four different NBA teams during his long career when he also was a president and GM — would be to sign him for a year or two while his son J.B. is groomed to take over the job when he’s ready.

Fortunately for the Timberwolves, they hired Rick Adelman instead. It worked out for Bickerstaff, too. He went to the Rockets and worked with a team with a winning record for the first time since 2000-01.

Obviously, that losing streak isn’t only Bickerstaff’s fault, but it’s certainly not a positive. Teams obviously like to hire winners, so how did Bickerstaff shine amid despair work his way up the coaching ranks while losing? Nepotism, perhaps? Leonard Laye of BobcatsBasketball.com when Bickerstaff was a Bobcats assistant:

John-Blair is the NBA’s youngest assistant coach. His father had the same distinction when, in 1973 at age 29, he started his coaching career in the league as a Washington assistant.

“Getting an opportunity like this, at my age, is a blessing,” John-Blair said. “Getting to work with my dad every day is a blessing.

Even if Bickerstaff got a leg up because his dad coached – and that’s not necessarily the case – maybe he seized the opportunity and developed into a worthy coaching candidate. For a small window into what Bickerstaff does, here’s an article excerpt from 2011, when Bickerstaff was a Timberwolves assistant. Judd Spicer of City Pages:

Bickerstaff is quick to laud the lack of generational gaps between the rest of the staff — coaches Kurt Rambis, Bill Laimbeer, Reggie Theus are all 53-years old; Dave Wohl is 61 — and the players, but adds that being a young coach has allowed him to serve in a conduit-capacity with players.

"The relationships — because of the similar generation I have with players — it opens doors up for us as a coaching staff," Bickerstaff explains. "It gives me the ability to relate to the guys, but also to be in a position as a coach to demand things from players.  I think I can get a lot out of people because I do have that relationship with them.  And it’s a relationship built on respect, and they understand that my best interest is for them and the team.  Because of that, the coaches can come to me and I can go to the guys and get what we need to get done."

By nature, assistant coaches have different relationships with players than head coaches do. Assistant coaches often smooth over the hardline messages head coaches must deliver, and it sounds like Bickerstaff fills his role well. But can he also make and communicate the difficult decisions as a head coach?

And what has he done to prove himself in Houston? There’s only so much work for assistants to do, and the Rockets have two – Bickerstaff and Kelvin Sampson – good enough to interview for head-coaching positions. By both sharing responsibilities, there’s a limited opportunity for either to prove himself. But Sampson at least established his bona fides with the Bucks and Indiana University.

I asked for a wide-ranging coach search that includes candidates who would command a large salary, and the Pistons – who have or will interview Nate McMillan, Nate Budenholzer, Lindsey Hunter and Bickerstaff – are doing jut that. If they hire Bickerstaff because they like him more than McMillan and Budenholzer, I could maybe get behind that. If they hire Bickerstaff because more-established candidates turn them down, I’d be pretty underwhelmed.

In the meantime, I’ll keep reminding myself it doesn’t matter who they interview. It matters only whom they hire, and they’re probably not going to hire Bickerstaff.


  • May 8, 201312:33 pm
    by The Rake


    This is a no lose situation for the Pistons. If they hired JB Bick it would be because he blew the competition away. There is some intrigue in having a young guy at the helm, but less so, considering he has no HC experience. I don’t see this as a fit, but I do like that we are leaving no stone unturned so far in the search. Positive note, we can’t do any worse than the last 3 coaches we’ve had (though the suggestion of three failures in a row means that we clearly need to do better as well). 

  • May 8, 201312:35 pm
    by G


    At this point I’m treating these coaching interview updates like a 2014 mock draft – pretty useless. They’ve already interviewed the main candidates who are available (at least a couple guys can’t interview until they’re knocked out of the playoffs), and at this point are checking on the fringe candidates until they can interview guys like Shaw.

    SVG isn’t coming to Detroit, as much as we might want him to. He’ll probably get the LAC job as soon as VDN gets canned. Van Gundy has already said he wants to coach a contender or a warm climate team. Detroit is obviously neither, the Clippers are both.

    • May 8, 20131:10 pm
      by ryan


      Your take on the coaching search makes sense to me G. I’m glad they’re looking at a lot of guys but I hope they have a clear idea in mind about what they’re looking for.

    • May 8, 20131:15 pm
      by I HATE FRANK


      LOL@At this point I’m treating these coaching interview updates like a 2014 mock draft – pretty useless

      I actually would like this move ,once again over Nate McMillian.

      • May 8, 20131:28 pm
        by G


        Who do you like again? McMillan at least would make sense, although I feel like he would be a stepping stone to a championship coach…

    • May 8, 20131:48 pm
      by Jeremy


      Assuming VDN gets canned, should he then be put on the Pistons’ radar? 5 seasons coached, 4 playoff appearances. His playoff record isn’t spectacular, but he is batting .533 career for the regular season. Also important to note that the Clippers won’t be a contender if CP3 doesn’t re-up there this off season. I’m not so sure that the Clippers didn’t succeed because of VDN or the roster. I mean, Grant Hill should be filling out his AARP card soon. Billups isn’t too far behind and is a shell of his former self. Barnes has only had a season like this one time before in his 10 year career. Odom is non-existent. Butler was productive but is on the backside of his career. Crawford was the only one in the above 30 years old club that played anywhere near what he has in the past.
      I agree with you on the coaching interview updates. At this point, I will just sit back, watch, and participate in the speculation as well.

      • May 8, 20132:06 pm
        by G


        VDN is worth more of a look than Isiah is, but that’s about it. He’s not very good. He was .500 with a VERY good Bulls team before coming to LA. He makes TERRIBLE in-game decisions (timeouts, substitutions), and his offense is a disaster. Don’t let that record fool you, he’s coached some VERY talented teams that all underachieved.

        Btw, CP3 is probably re-upping with the Clippers. If they get SVG, it’s almost a sure thing. 

  • May 8, 20131:16 pm
    by frankie d


    now i’m really concerned on a whole lot of other levels.
    who’s next, dennis rodman’s just-revealed illegitimate son from n. korea? 

    • May 8, 20131:25 pm
      by G


      Chill out. JB is a fringe candidate they’re bringing in to cover all the bases. Why not look at a couple extra guys while waiting to interview the last couple MAIN candidates?

  • May 8, 20131:31 pm
    by Big Rick


    J. B. Bickerstaff…… sounds like a villian from The Dukes of Hazzard, or a guest star from the tv show Dallas.

  • May 8, 20131:42 pm
    by Big Rick


    But I feel you guys on how to view these coaching updates (mock draft). Started feeling that way after the news of Joe D. flying to San Antonio to interview the Spurs lead assistant. They’re probably gonna be quite a few more of these coaching updates followed with tons of speculation, but let me know when news leak about 2nd or 3rd meetings or interviews. I believe that before we hired Frank that both him and Woodson recieved multiple follow-up interviews before a final decision was made.  

  • May 9, 20134:42 am
    by Grizz


    Interviews mean very little  ONE exception the coach with NO RECORD who  will need to explain his philosophy and system. I suppose you want some kind of harmony between the GM, owner and head coach .. but I would rather have the worse interviewee if he were the best head coach .. Bickerstaff has proven he is not a very good coach. Why does bringing him in for an interview change anything at all? If Bickerstaff had the best interview, does it follow that he will be the best head coach? Hardly. Lawrence Frank had a great interview by all accounts. SO WHERE DID THAT GET US? The record of Bickerstaff should have excluded him from an interview of any kind. Again, Mr. Dumars is under the impression that more interviews will lead to a better head coach signed as a Detroit Pistons. Or simply wants to look like he is doing his job by interviewing bad candidates. Bad sign here. There is also the possibility that we will drag the process out so long interviewing that the best candidates will sign elsewhere.

    • May 9, 20137:58 am
      by G


      How has JB proven he’s a bad coach? All he’s ever been is an assistant.

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