Let me get this straight. The Pistons players, again, are upset at their coach. Josh Smith didn’t like that Maurice Cheeks called an unscheduled practice earlier this year. Andre Drummond is upset that Cheeks yanked him in a game, because Drummond failed to perform a fundamentally sound pick and roll. And backup guard Will Bynum is peeved because he showed blatant disrespect for his boss.
And yet, it’s Cheeks who gets canned.
For the record, Smith leads this team in minutes played, despite shooting a horrid 23% from behind the arc and averaging over 2.5 turnovers per game. Drummond has been universally touted as an untouchable rising star, but has been far too inconsistent and still can’t hit better than 41% from the charity stripe.
Has it gotten so bad at the Palace that no coach would want the gig? No. But this organization will soon have to introduce its 9th coach in 14 years, and fourth in the last six seasons. Only one coach Joe Dumars has hired has lasted more than two years. That’s not a very good indication of judgment.
Many of his first round draft picks have been terrible: Rodney White, Darko Milicic, Jason Maxiell, D.J. White and Austin Daye. Sure he’s hit on some (Tayshaun Prince, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond), but you can’t hit .500 with first round picks, especially in the lottery.
He’s handed out ill-advised long-term contracts to guys like Richard Hamilton. Dumars made head-scratching trades like Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson and Arron Afflalo for a second round pick. And he wrote checks to free agent busts like Charlie Villanueva, Ben Gordon and Josh Smith. Just as big a question is, why won’t his players ever buy in? Is he really in charge, or is he making decisions based on ownership’s desires?
Look, many felt Cheeks was the wrong choice from the get-go. Not me, and I was wrong. But isn’t it blatantly obvious that Smith and Jennings haven’t exactly been the right fit either? I’m not one to give up on rookies, and I won’t on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but it’s not like he’s made the impact that many expected. In defense of the firing, Cheeks never warmed to people within the organization. He was distant and, at times, difficult.
His team’s decision-making is terrible, it's defense is lackluster at best, and I haven’t noticed many players get considerably better. He was under-prepared for games, and failed to make the right adjustments. That is all on him. And when you lose a room, the coach must go.
Dumars' contract is up at season’s end. Why would any coach like Lionel Hollins, George Karl, Nate McMillan or Jeff VanGundy accept the invitation to take the reins of this club, with so much uncertainty. They wouldn’t, unless the owner makes the hire.
Owner Tom Gores says his team’s 21-29 record doesn’t indicate the talent of his club. Just because a franchise has talent, doesn’t mean it is a team, though. This Pistons unit plays as a bunch of individuals, not like a team. Until that mindset changes, nothing will at the Palace.
Matt Shepard is the play-by-play voice of University of Michigan basketball, Eastern Michigan University football and the Detroit Lions television network. He can also be found on TV locally on Fox Sports Detroit and nationally on the Big Ten Network for college hockey and baseball.Learn more.