HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Nothing warms the cockles of a Piston fan’s heart more than the memory of an Isiah Thomas jump-shot dagger or a Bill Laimbeer cheap-shot forearm to the back of a head.
Perhaps nothing would rekindle interest in the team and put fans back into the seats at The Palace than a return to the Bad Boys’ attitude as new owner Tom Gores plans to make the first significant hire of his regime. But how long would the Bad Boys II really go to resurrecting the once-proud franchise?
It’s an interesting debate that’s currently taking place in the Motor City and it has a pair of long-time, well-respected columnists from The Detroit News on opposite sides of the fence.
This Pistons job will be a tough one because a lot of buffoonery is left behind and can no longer be tolerated. New owner Tom Gores talked about being tougher, and that starts in the dressing room.
Players were allowed to run roughshod over John Kuester. They could do as they pleased and say what they wanted. They didn’t seem to care.
I assume Richard Hamilton will be gone, along with Tayshaun Prince. Rodney Stuckey spent a lot of time brooding during the season, too, but it appears the Pistons would like to try to salvage him.
The worst part of this past season was that a bunch of young, impressionable players like Greg Monroe and Austin Daye witnessed the circus, and they must understand now that player mutiny and boorish behavior is not the norm in the NBA.
That is probably why Laimbeer and Thomas are attractive candidates. Both are strong-willed and unafraid to ruffle feathers.
This transition is not going to be pretty. The Pistons are not a good team and they have internal problems that must be ironed out. The coach must stand up to the players, and he will need strong support from the front office and ownership.
Thomas, who led the Pistons to NBA titles in 1989 and 1990, has a strong personality but a spotty record as a coach and executive. At Indiana and with the Knicks he was a set-up man, not allowed the opportunity to finish the job. Does he want to be a set-up man again? That will be a key question.
Laimbeer lacks head coaching experience but, like Thomas, would be a popular pick with the fans. He coached the Detroit Shock to three WNBA titles, but that means little in the NBA. He’s earned his stripes by being an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
On the other hand, Bob Wojnowski says it would be more prudent to resist the temptation to turn back the clock and instead focus on the future:
Since Chuck Daly left in 1992, the Pistons have had 10 head coaches, and none survived more than three seasons. When Dumars makes a hiring mistake — either in his mind or late owner Bill Davidson‘s mind — he has swiftly addressed it.
But one of these times, Dumars needs to hire a coach that sticks, and grows with a roster that will be reshaped. The Pistons are in rebuilding mode, but they cannot be in disarray at the same time. This is Dumars’ chance to make it right, and Gores’ first chance to show what he stands for.
No more trial runs. No more meandering or pandering.
Dumars said there was a moratorium on any significant changes during the ownership transition, and there’s little doubt he would have dealt with issues more sternly. He probably would have dismissed Kuester before now, or dumped some offending players, such as Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince or Tracy McGrady, who clearly had little respect for the coach.
While there is no doubt that the Bad Boys Redux might be fun and entertaining in the short term, there is much more work to be done here than just a quick fix. The Pistons need to re-establish the franchise on the kind of solid locker room foundation that was poured by the Hall of Famer Daly, who able to channel the anger and energy of the original Bad Boys into back-to-back titles.
In other words: thanks for the memories, Bill and Isiah, but this is no time to try to go back to the future.