Posts Tagged ‘Michael Curry’

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.

Sixers’ Collins Out As Coach, In As Adviser



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For any father or son, the reasons Doug Collins gave for leaving his coaching job with the Philadelphia 76ers for a less taxing consultant’s role make perfect sense.

Collins has grandchildren he wants to spend more time with in his golden years, he wants to watch his son, Chris Collins, now the coach at Northwestern, thrive in the family business.

After giving the last 40 years of his life to the game he loves and the merciless grind that is the pursuit of a championship ring, Collins wants his next four or five years to be on his terms.

“There’s a lot of things I want to enjoy,” Collins said. “I think it’s every man’s dream to be able to live that life that you work so hard to try to live. And that’s what I want to do.”

He knew it at Christmas, when he had to be away while “the grandkids were opening their presents,” that he was done coaching, that he didn’t have the energy to give to the profession the way he knows great coaches have to if they’re going to do the job the justice it deserves.

It wasn’t about wins and losses, Collins said this morning as he addressed the media in Philadelphia. No amount of either would have changed his mind. The sacrifices had become too great, the benefits, financial and otherwise, that come with a NBA coaching job were outweighed by the important moments a proud father and grandfather had to miss.

“I didn’t get down to a Duke game last year,” Collins said. “My son … I want to see him grow, want to see him coach. That’s important to me.”

If only Jrue Holiday, Even Turner, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes and the rest of the players he coached through a tumultuous season this year in Philadelphia had been just as important. Collins never told them of the exit strategy that had been brewing for months. They were left to the rumblings that grew into rumors the past couple weeks and into full blown hysterics last week.

Collins is a brilliant basketball mind. No one disputes that. And he’s a fine coach, as passionate as he is relentless about teaching the game and as focused and fanatical as they come in his profession. Widely regarded as one of the best analysts around, Collins chose to dive back into coaching three years ago with the franchise he’s always considered home.

He was not pushed out the door. Sixers owner Josh Harris made that clear before Collins said a word this morning.

“Doug is not being pushed out,” Harris said. “I would love to have him back as my coach. This is his decision … I want to make that unequivocally clear.”

A decision that no doubt became clear to us all during that infamous February postgame rant when Collins seemed to crack under the pressure of a season gone awry. “Go back and listen to the transcript,” Collins said. “I didn’t throw anybody under the bus. I spoke the truth. We played our best basketball after that.”

Andrew Bynum, the Sixers’ prized summer acquisition from a blockbuster trade that saw Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless traded away for the All-Star center, didn’t play a single second this season.

Instead of contending in the Eastern Conference a season after a surprise run to the conference semifinals, the Sixers finished ninth in the East and four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot, despite playing their “best basketball” in the six weeks after his frustrations boiled over.

I don’t care how diplomatic they try to be, the Bynum debacle stained this season for Collins, Harris and the entire organization.

“We spent $84 million and don’t have much to show for it,” said Harris, who was extremely careful when talking about Bynum and what the Sixers’ plans are regarding the soon-to-be unrestricted free-agent big man. “You look at our cost per win, and its pretty low.”

Collins plans to serve as an adviser to Harris the next five years, a time-frame both men referenced, as they work to increase that cost per win number.

His days of, as he put it, “trying to be Frederick Douglas, Dale Carnegie, Dr. Phil and then trying to draw up a play to win the game,” are over. He said he won’t get the coaching itch again.

He’ll leave that to guys like Michael Curry, the only one of his assistants to get a public endorsement for the coaching vacancy in Philadelphia during Monday’s festivities.

“Michael Curry has been a head coach before,” Collins said. “What he’s done here defensively has been remarkable. I think Michael’s ready. The thing about it is, they are going to get a great coach. This is a great city …  to me, this is a win-win. They get a great a coach and it gives me a chance to do some of the things I want to do.”

http://www.nba.com/2013/news/04/18/sixers-collins-resigns.ap/index.html

“Pain-free” Bynum Says He’ll Play

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HANG TIME, Texas — Opening night in Philadelphia could now be just a month away.

That is, opening night for the team the Sixers thought they had put together when they made the blockbuster deal for Andrew Bynum last summer.

Or perhaps more realistically, opening night for the 2013-14 season.

For the first time in ages, there is more to report than an update on the 7-footer’s hairstyle as Bynum made the first step toward finally playing in a Sixers uniform when he got onto the court for a basketball workout with associate head coach Michael Curry and athletic trainer Kevin Johnson.

Bynum was seen by Philly reporters shooting jumpers from the wings and the baseline on Monday. No running, no jumping and certainly no slam dunking.

No bowling therapy either.

But following a seemingly endless series of setbacks with injuries to both knees, Bynum at last said he now has his sights set on playing this season.

“I have no idea exactly, I just want to get back,” he said. “I think, I’m hoping around the All-Star break. That’s what I’m hoping.  I have no idea exactly when I’ll be back.”

The All-Star break ends Feb 20 and the Sixers would then have 31 regular season games left to play.

Currently sitting at 16-22 and ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, it would be strictly fantasy to think Bynum could lift the Sixers into the playoffs and then make them a real force once they got there.

But since one, then two bad knees kept him from being ready at the start of the season, that was never the significant part of the story. The Sixers need to know how fit and how capably Bynum can play over the final month or so of this season before committing themselves to him for the next five years with a max level contract.

The Philly front office says it has a plan to move forward no matter how things turn out with Bynum. But let’s face it, having a 7-footer who could immediately be the best center in the East, is the preferred way to start.

With Jrue Holiday having a breakout year and Evan Turner taking steps forward, putting Bynum in the lineup would make things interesting in Philly for the final 30 or so games of the season.

But these are very small steps. For now, Bynum’s conditioning workouts are only on a treadmill and a machine that lessens that effect of gravity.

“I went as fast as eight miles per hour,” he bragged.

The important part is that Bynum is no longer feeling pain in his knees.

It’s minimal,” he said. “It’s not hurting.”

The next step is to add straight line running and then lateral movements.

Bynum was asked if he felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders by returning to practice.

“No, because I’m not back,” he said. “But I’m going in a a good directions. It’s all positive.”

Opening night could be around the corner.

Pistons Working To Save Their Season, Refill Once-Packed Palace

DALLAS – The Detroit Pistons have crashed as hard as the Michigan economy over the last few years and the combination has resulted in a lot of eerily quiet nights inside The Palace at Auburn Hills.

“It is strange for sure,” Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva said before the Pistons dropped a 10th road game in 11 tries Saturday against the Mavericks. “The fact that my first five years in the league, seeing that place sold out every game; every time we went into Detroit it was sold out. It just shows how hard the economy hit, but I think it will bounce back. It’s just a matter of time.”

For now, there are more empty seats than filled ones at Pistons games. But to pin Detroit’s turnstile problem mostly on a rotten economy is to discredit die-hard Pistons fans that have grown weary of throwing good money at bad basketball.

Entering tonight’s eighth home game of the season against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit’s average attendance is 12,392 and ranks last in the league — behind Sacramento, New Orleans and last season’s worst team, Charlotte. Take away the home-opener crowd of 16,646 and the average dips to 11,683. On most nights the actual attendance is much less.

FROM FIRST TO WORST
The Pistons rank last in the league in attendance this season. A look at the club’s average attendance over the last 13 seasons
Season Avg. Attendance Rank
2012-13 12,392 30th
2011-12 14,413 28th
2010-11 16,660 18th
2009-10 18,751 8th
2008-09 21,877 1st
2007-08 22,076 1st
2006-07 22,076 2nd
2005-06 22,076 1st
2004-05 22,076 1st
2003-04 22,076 1st
2002-03 20,470 1st
2001-02 18,556 11th
2000-01 14,812 22nd

“It’s not weird because it’s not a situation where it’s been drastic, where this season it was packed and the very next season it was nothing,” said Tayshaun Prince, a career Piston and last remaining member of the 2004 title team. “It didn’t just hit rock bottom at one point. When things are going so well for a long period of time and then all of a sudden when things hit, then they started to veer down, veer down, veer down.”

From 2002 through 2009, not coincidentally the last time Detroit made the playoffs, the Pistons ranked No. 1 in attendance in six of those seven seasons, routinely boasting sellout crowds of 20,000-plus. The one season they weren’t No. 1, they were No. 2. The run included the ’04 championship and a repeat Finals appearance under Larry Brown, and four other East finals appearances, one prior to Brown under Rick Carlisle, and three more after Brown under Flip Saunders.

Since Saunders won 59 games in 2007-08, but lost in the East finals for a third consecutive time, Detroit has rolled through coaches Michael Curry (39-43) and John Kuester (57-107), with Lawrence Frank now in his second season and trying to rescue a 5-13 start that opened with eight consecutive losses.

Detroit hasn’t won more than 39 games in any of the last four seasons and average attendance has steadily declined from the top spot in ’08-’09 to eighth to 18th to 28th and now to rock bottom.

“It’s not on the fans to come out. It’s on us to put together a product every night that fans can be proud of,” Frank said. “Detroit has always shown great support, not just for basketball, for all their sports teams when they’re competing at the highest level. You’re used to seeing a lot of fans out there, but we’re appreciative for the fans that do go. Obviously, we understand the economic crisis and what hit, and Detroit obviously was hit harder than most. But from the beginning, it’s going to be on us to put together something that the fans can be proud of and want to support.”

To Frank’s point, and further proof that tough economic times alone doesn’t kill attendance, the Detroit Tigers have averaged more than 30,000 fans in each of the last six seasons. Even the Lions, amid another last-place season, are averaging more than 63,000 through six home games, better than 98 percent capacity. Both clubs play in relatively new downtown venues and some debate if the Pistons would be better served leaving their suburban digs some 30 miles north of the city.

But that ignores the club’s attendance track record over much of the last decade and before that when the Pistons shared the Pontiac Silverdome with the Lions.

So how close are the Pistons to rising up again?

“I think it’s real close,” impressive third-year center and leading scorer Greg Monroe said. “We have to find a way to come out every night and just play hard and outwork teams. I think we’re very close to doing that, but it’s going to take games to get the actual body of work to say we are doing it consistently.”

It’s hopeless to still lament the Darko Milicic draft and the free-agent millions thrown at Villanueva and Ben Gordon. Monroe is surrounded by a roster that might not contend for a title, but is at least intriguing for its youth. Second-year guard Brandon Knight and rookies Kyle Singler and Andre Drummond join Monroe as possible long-term core pieces. Veterans Jason Maxiell, Corey Maggette, Rodney Stuckey, Prince and, yes, Villanueva, should help to at least make a push toward playoff contention in a mediocre Eastern Conference.

No progress was made on that front during the recent two-game road swing through Memphis and Dallas with two more double-digit losses (nine in 11 road games). It was a disappointing development coming after the season’s first flirtation with momentum, a modest two-game home win streak that gave Detroit four wins in six games.

They put on an offensive show for the few souls that came out, beating Portland, 108-101, and then drilled Phoenix 117-77. That beat down drew an announced crowd of 10,517, about 300 more than the previous night.

Even the league’s top draws haven’t delivered bigger crowds. The Celtics drew 12,214 and 12,784 came to see three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“It’s been tough,” Maxiell admitted. “The last couple years the crowd’s been trimming down. We’re trying to bring the crowds back with some big entertainment. The guys that were here a couple years ago know how it was when we were winning, and we’re trying to bring them back.”

Is Orlando Still An Option For Dwight?



HANG TIME, Texas – Log me onto StubHub. Get me a ticket.

I want a front row seat at the Amway Center when Dwight Howard has to pull on that Magic jersey and take the floor in front of all those fans in Orlando that he’s left twisting in the wind for the past seven-plus months.

Give the Magic front office credit. No matter how many times they’ve been slapped in the face by their All-Star center, they keep going back for more.
Now, according to Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld, general manager Rob Hennigan is going to make a coast-to-coast effort to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

In recent days, the Magic have shifted their attention away from the ongoing trade talks and focused on persuading Howard to remain in Orlando. Hennigan and his staff will travel to Los Angeles later this week to meet face-to-face with Howard and deliver a presentation designed to persuade Howard to return to the Magic. Hennigan is determined to fix the strained relationship between the player and the organization, and he’s hopeful that Howard will resume his career in Orlando.

Hennigan asked Howard to drop his trade demand during a phone conversation two weeks ago, but the six-time All-Star reiterated his desire to be traded. Now, however, Howard has agreed to meet with the Magic and sources within the organization are optimistic that they can change his stance with this pitch.

It’s no secret that Howard has wanted to join the Brooklyn Nets for quite some time. Now, with the Nets out of the picture for at least six months, the Magic are hoping that Howard is open to a return rather than settling on another destination like Los Angeles, which Howard seemed hesitant to commit to until recently. Howard doesn’t have many options, which is one reason Orlando is hopeful he’ll be willing to return. (more…)