Surprise: Dumars Fires Yet Another Coach

VIDEO: Cheeks is out at Detroit after only eight months

Mo Cheeks, the eighth coach to serve during Joe Dumars‘ run as president of basketball operations for the Detroit Pistons, lasted eight months before, as multiple media outlets reported and the team eventually confirmed Sunday, getting the ax.

Dumars is in his 14th season, six years removed from Detroit’s last .500-or-better season. And the Pistons’ lone championship on Dumars’ watch (2004) came so long ago, Yao Ming, Latrell Sprewell and Seattle still were in the league and Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and the Charlotte Bobcats weren’t.

That math no longer adds up.

In fact, with the clamor for advanced analytics to measure and dictate every motion and inclination of every player associated with an NBA team’s success or failure, the league is overdue for a concrete rating system for front-office executives. They’re the guys, after all, who are lauded or ripped by a new generation of sportswriter/analyst, depending on how avidly they embrace or eschew such calculations.

Or how ’bout this? A simple ceiling on the number of coaches a GM can hire or fire before it is his head on the chopping block.

Three would seem to be plenty, though four might be a reasonable number as well. If you spot the boss one for clearing the deck after he takes the job – the way Dumars did in 2001, replacing George Irvine with Rick Carlisle – two or three more ought to be enough, after which the scrutiny needs to shift from the sideline to the executive suite.

That would have only gotten Dumars to about the halfway mark in presiding over his personal coaches’ Boot Hill.

After Irvine and Carlisle, Dumars and the Pistons turned to Larry Brown, who did precisely what everyone expected him to do: he got Detroit to The Finals in his first season, steered its ensemble cast to the 2004 championship, then won another 54 games before his AWOL DNA kicked in and he was on the move.

Flip Saunders was brought in and did even better, in terms of victories, going 176-70 in three seasons. But he never had full control of the Pistons’ veteran-laden locker room – thanks, Rasheed Wallace and Rip Hamilton – though Saunders’ non-confrontational style was well-established before Dumars ever hired him. The core of that Detroit team was in decline, anyway, so when Saunders was dumped in 2008, so was its trips to the Eastern Conference finals and, for that matter, days sniffing air above .500.

Saunders at least holds the distinction of lasting longest under Dumars. After him, Michael Curry, John Kuester, Lawrence Frank — and now Cheeks — have followed in rather rapid succession, each staying two years or less.

The Cheeks firing borders on Kim & Kris eye-blink brief, with the added touch that Pistons players apparently learned the news Sunday through media and fan postings on Twitter. Sure, they’re the ones allegedly responsible, underperforming at a 21-29 pace that most experts felt should have been flipped to 29-21 by now. But class is as class does, and while Dumars – always classy as a Hall of Fame player in Detroit – can’t be held responsible for every leak, it does add to the impression that there’s chaos and scapegoating going on in the Motor City.

The Pistons have been in or near the league’s bottom third both offensively and defensively. As of Sunday morning, they were ninth, out of the playoff picture, despite an East standings that from No. 3 down ought to be a land of opportunity. Detroit has been OK within its conference actually (18-14) but a 3-15 mark vs. the West has been killer, as was the Pistons’ 7-15 mark at home halfway through the schedule.

The inability to meld the work of big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, some reported rancor among the players over the rotation and the confrontation/aftermatch between the coach and guard Will Bynum – that’s all on Cheeks. The question, though, of whether 50 games was enough to decide his fate – after successive two-years-and-out terms of Frank and Kuester – was answered by Dumars and owner Tom Gores.

“Our record does not reflect our talent and we simply need a change,” Gores said in a team statement. “We have not made the kind of progress that we should have over the first half of the season. This is a young team and we knew there would be growing pains, but we can be patient only as long as there is progress.

“The responsibility does not fall squarely on any one individual, but right now this change is a necessary step toward turning this thing around. I still have a lot of hope for this season and I expect our players to step up. I respect and appreciate Maurice Cheeks and thank him for his efforts; we just require a different approach.”

Pinpointing where that approach begins or ends, that’s the challenge. And that’s the area – made up top in jest but maybe a real void in need of filling – to be addressed. There’s got to be a more concrete way of capturing Dumars’ successes and failures.

The talent of which Gores spoke is largely of the individual variety; there’s no one even casually familiar with the NBA who didn’t stack up as many or more “cons” on the right side of Brandon Jennings‘ and Josh Smith‘s ledgers as “pros” on the left. It was, in a sense, a higher risk/reward gamble on “me first” guys than Dumars had perpetrated in 2009 when he splurged on free agents Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to little positive effect.

The Pistons constantly tout their youth – their starting lineup ranks as the NBA’s most tender (23 years and change) – and the fact that their record is best among the league’s four youngest teams. But if that’s something to overcome in the short term, the W-L mark that the kids cobble together seems an odd thing to hold against Cheeks. He didn’t wave a wand and make them young.

More Dumars: Rodney Stuckey was going to be the Pistons’ future until he wasn’t, and only lately has done better in his new zero-expectations world. Then there was the Darko Milicic gaffe, a blown No. 2 pick in 2003 from which the franchise still hasn’t recovered. All while the No. 1 (LeBron James), 3 (Carmelo Anthony), 4 (Chris Bosh) and 5 (Dwyane Wade) picks will be at All-Star weekend in New Orleans.

Gores’ arrival as owner apparently was a reset button for Dumars, because new bosses need basketball people they trust the same as chaotic, distracted owners (the previous Pistons regime). But eight coaches in 14 years and, with whoever takes over on the sideline now, six in eight seasons goes beyond fickle toward feeble.

Even if, in formulating an analytic to apply to the GMs, some allowance gets made for the length of the exec’s reign, Dumars would seem to have exceeded an acceptable average for pink slips. The next one he hands out, he needs to be standing in front of a mirror.

Or better yet, he needs to take over as coach himself and demonstrate that his GM/president knows what he’s doing.


  1. mostvaluablecommentofalltime says:

    i’m not following every pistons game, honnestly maybe 50% of them, so maybe i’m wrong, but what i saw with smith/jennings will help to loose a few years AGAIN in detroit if they stick with them. If they trade drummond now it’s stupid.

  2. BadBoyEst.1984 says:

    This is a front office problem. Here it is another year gone by and Detroit WILL NOT invest in a shooting guard that can take over in close game situations. We have a formitable frontcourt and I think Stuckey could be that SG but he’s better coming off the bench, he has been this way throughout his NBA career. Why not bring in an All-Star SG to booster the crowd attendence as well as WINS????

  3. JOE GERONIMO says:


  4. Bad Boys, ha? says:

    He could try his old mate Pee-Wee.

  5. wanted: superstar says:

    back to zero for the Pistons. They should have at least given Cheeks a full season.
    Does the owner thought the Pistons can recover and win in the playoffs? Don’t think so

  6. beeva says:

    I’m just going to throw this out there. They should have hired Zeljko Obradovic and then sat back and watched him turn this team into a powerhouse again. One of the best coaches in the league (if not the best) has his team playing European basketball (I’m talking about Popovich) and look how well that’s turned out. Instead Joe turns to coaches who have no track record.

  7. funkypiston says:

    Nate Mcmillan, former Blazers coach ? He did an awesome job with a very young Blazers squad. Lionel Hollins is good as well. Reality though, Pistons Roster is overrated and over paid barring the two big men.

  8. marty says:

    Dumars not exempt from this..That missed pick in 03 and the missed free agent signings.

  9. Jugular says:

    fire dumars…maybe the pistons need some new blood

  10. No Regrets says:

    This is a personal attack on Dumars, Steve.
    Some of what you say make sense, some not. You seem to be blaming everything on Dumars, while not even giving him credit for the things he did, such as building, with Larry Brown, a model team out of discarded players. That’s part of the reason Dumars still gets respect around the league, not from you, tho.
    And hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it. Milicic was indeed a gaffe, but the majority of GM’s would have gotten him back then. Gordon and Villanueva were also obvious ones, too, and perhaps D should have been laid off then. But now, they’re right, their talent is good, and they should be better. If anything, this year’s Clippers demonstrate exactly that, how a good coaching staff can improve promising players and teams.
    Attacking Dumars now, makes no sense. Unless it’s the end in itself, and the rest mere opportunity.

  11. lol says:

    Pistons should just close the organisation down as Detroit is an awful city

  12. Dale Harris has the maturity,experience and player-coach type relationship.He would be a perfect fit for this team as it now stand.

  13. BenDarmanin says:

    Only 1 of that draft’s top 10 only 1 player is still on the team that drafted him

  14. sam says:

    Joe Dumars = The New Isiah Thomas

  15. NetsTape says:

    I for one am not a big fan of Dumars, but he has rebounded decently. This team right now though their record does not justify it, will be a tough team to contend with for the for-see-able future. That frontline mixed with Jennings creativity can be a headache when they are clicking. This firing smells Lionel Hollins all over it. What he did with the Bigs in Memphis and Connelly could be exactly what turns Detroit from Pretender to Contender. They need a legit 2 guard though….I wonder if OJ Mayo would get re-motivated playing for a potential contender? (sorry contender is a bit much…switch it to playoff bound) Or maybe….just maybe they can acquire a Marcus Thorton or Iman Shumpert? Either way, Detroit is one coach and one player away from becoming a True Headache to opposing teams….Funny thing is, I don’t like Detroit at all.

  16. wowowowbad says:

    Dumars is the one should be fired.

  17. Emiliano says:

    Next step: The Detroit Dumars

  18. John moves says:

    Call me nuts but they should sign Lionel Hollins OR Vinny del negro OR George Karl OR Doug Collins to salvage their team especially if they are chasing playoffs. Maybe it is not Maurice Cheek’s fault but it is their players. Correct me if im wrong but Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings are playing inconsistent this season. obviously they have their up and downs

  19. sonofabbas says:

    schizophrenic team and president, jennings and smith never saw a shot they didnt like

  20. Patrick says:

    Lional Hollins ✔✔✔✔

  21. SoulChorea says:

    Dumars is bugging. Hasn’t had success since the RIP, Billups, and Tayshaun Prince days, and he blew that team up for no reason (in retrospect). Just stick with a plan for a few years for crying out loud

  22. garen says:

    dumars did not fire cheeks, gores did. dumars did not hire cheeks either, gores did with the advise of his buddy phil jackson.

  23. Mikhail says:

    They should fire Dumars. Enough of trying to find a suitable coach and mixing of talents, it’s about time to change the management itself. It’s just nostalgic what Dumars is doing. Building a new management could change things up, on how to hire coaches and players that would have a better chemistry.

  24. heathater says:

    Look, just because Detroit has had a terrible roster for the last half decade, doesn’t mean that the roster they have now should have been under achieving so much. Cheeks was a bad fit, and i think they’ll make the playoffs this year after it’s all said and done. If they get no better by the end of the season or after next year, it may be time to move Dumars, but now that we’ve finally got a roster with a somewhat talented lineup, let’s see if he can finally get something out of them.

  25. bluedragon says:

    Dumars should have been let go when he picked Darko instead of Melo

  26. Tony C says:

    Hey Joe, this is not going to get you that number 1 pick man. It never works out that way. LOL

  27. David says:

    They should hire George Karl. He got a good resume and has coached many teams to deep playoff runs. Even if the Pistons make the playoffs, they ain’t going far. If they are the 8th cede, they will get destroyed by the Pacers and get swept by the Heat if they make the 7th cede.

  28. BIG WILL says:

    To J.D.:The proverbial “Bell” is “tolling for Thee!”

  29. Gillsy says:

    Lionel Hollins would be a good fit. He would provide a defensive mentality to this team, which Drummond and Munroe would feed off.

  30. Trayton says:

    Hire the nuggets coach George Karl (who was let go last year after they posted the 3rd best record in the west) his teams work as a TEAM. No real leaders but everyone contributed . He’d be a dream pick.

  31. james says:

    the pistons still cold

  32. Celtics Fan says:

    Joe Dumars should be fired too. signing josh smith hoping he could play SF? he cant’ even shoot 3’s consistently

  33. Ray Money says:

    I’m glad they got rid of Mo. He has been the reason Detroit keeps losing. The new head coach needs to put Monroe at 6th man so that way J Smoove can have freedom in the post.

  34. Peta says:

    Its not the coach. The players on the team are simply far overrated.

  35. Ivan says:

    Good morning George Karl

  36. Arky says:

    Everyone said that Mo Cheeks wasn’t going to work as head coach. Everyone said that Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond on court at the same time was a bad idea. Everyone was right.

    Smith, Monroe and Drummond together wasn’t Cheeks’ fault, but despite having 3 good big men he kept mismanaging the rotation so that 2 or 3 would be off the court together instead of almost always having 2 of them on the court. And he let Josh Smith hang out on the perimeter taking terrible long jumpers instead of using Smith effectively. It’s the right decision but they should never have hired him in the first place, and unless the Smith and Cheeks contracts were ownership’s call over Joe’s objections Joe should follow Mo out the door.

  37. Shawn Kemp no. 1 says:

    tough luck for Mo. first job as head coach and he gets a couple of idiots like Smith and Jennings to ruin the chemistry in a very talented team.

  38. Nick says:

    Dumars needs to go. He had a great team up through Saunders. They made the playoffs every year, often going deep. What does he do? He blows the whole thing up. In addition, nowadays too many young players (and a lot of the old) are prima donnas. The presidents and the GMs need to make it clear that the coaches are in charge and have their full support, much like it is in San Antonio. Otherwise, Dumars and others like him will always have trouble and be relegated to watching the playoffs instead of playing in them.

  39. paul says:

    they should fire Joe Dumars instead

  40. Eric says:

    Nice article, Dumars however, no matter how inept he may become will NEVER make fans in Detroit nostalgic for Matt Millen!!! Dumars reign did have some success including an NBA Championship, another trip to the Finals that went 7 games, and multiple trips to the Eastern Conference Finals. Putting Dumars’ recent record in the same realm of Millen who led an inept Lion’s franchise, which was at least mediocre when he took over (7 – 9 record) to its worst period including an NFL worst 0 -16 record just isn’t an accurate metaphor for Piston’s fan’s frustrations.

  41. dustydreamnz says:

    This doesn’t surprise me. They were playing as individuals, they’re a rabble.
    When they do occasionally play as a team they look really good like when they beat the Pacers. Change was needed.

  42. okc2014 says:

    Why didn’t they do a two for one deal and let go of Joe Dumars too? And they should keep it moving by waiving Josh Smith, losing Stuckey (bad attitude), and giving Andre Drummond his freedom to go to an team that will appreciate him. I could care less after that, what happens to the Pistons. I’m SO glad the Hawks got rid of J Smoove and his too cool to be cool foolishness.

  43. jdub455 says:

    Dumars shld be nearing the firing squad too…

  44. Mad says:

    And D’Antoni is still coaching …… just unbelivable !!!!!!!!
    There are coaches who deserve to be fired first

  45. DetroitD69 says:

    Here we Go again……….Once again, Dumars Gets Blamed for what his BOSS wants to do.
    Dumars didn’t want Larry Frank….Gores DID!!!!!……..Gores Fired Mo Cheeks…And, Dumars gets the blame Again!!!!!!
    I would Like to see what you would do if YOUR BOSS wanted something Done….And,YOU got the blame for it!!!!

    • JJ says:

      Dumars did draft Darko Milicic, though, which in itself, is enough to warrant his leaving.

    • BLamar says:

      Joe Dumars the one too blame he aint did nothing since2004 where he got lucky. He the one that thought m. Curry was a good choice

  46. Saaka says:

    Whoa, c’mon. I think Joe D needs to go next.

  47. SwMarkabby says:

    hire Lionel Hollins end of story

  48. Mike says:

    Please Fire him.

    • Another Heat Fan says:

      I think you guys need to cool it on Joe Dumars. Scapegoating? No. Why do you have to turn it into that?

      The pistons actually have a good group of players. They could be making .500 with this squad. And actually, they should be.

      A coaching change might just spark some fire in the players and push them to make the playoffs, maybe even in a good seed. The east is weak and now is the time to act the pistons are only 5 games behind toronto (the third seed in the east) and there’s still plenty of basketball left. This might be a good move.