Pistons coach Lawrence Frank has missed the past six games to be with his wife, Susan. (Clarence Tabb, Jr./Detroit News)
Auburn Hills — Pistons coach Lawrence Frank was back with his team Monday after missing six games dealing with his wife's serious health issue.
"She had to have major surgery and it'll be a long recovery," Frank said after morning shoot-around before a game against the Brooklyn Nets. "It was critical that I had to be there for my wife and kids. It's a helpless feeling."
He wouldn't divulge many details, but with his wife in New Jersey and his two young daughters there, it was a no-brainer to step away from the team to be there for his family. He admitted it was difficult to step back away from his family, but said his goal was to get his wife, Susan, out of the hospital and back home, at the very least.
"We all have stuff off the court, but this … I had to be there," Frank said. "Every day, we'll pray and keep on hoping for good things. This is many times your sanctuary, your salvation. It doesn't cure it. It's something I'm dealing with throughout."
That feeling extended to his players, who couldn't imagine being in that spot. For all that's said about NBA players and a perceived lack of awareness, they showed an appropriate amount of empathy an emotion for their coach.
"It's tough man, it's so serious," Greg Monroe said. "You wish you'd never have to go through it. I definitely would've had to take time off. Your wife, she's probably scared to death. I could feel where he's coming from, even though you don't know how serious it really is."
Frank actually drove to the wrong airport Sunday on his way back to Detroit, the first time he's ever done that in his life, he said.
His mind, understandably, was elsewhere.
"Your head, that's the hardest thing, leaving my family in this situation we're in," Frank said. "Look, there's not a right or wrong way. How you come to the conclusion, I wanted to get my wife out of the hospital and try to get her settled. As great as the organization is, I felt a responsibility to my job as well. I had a lot of support for my wife."
The usually jovial Frank was subdued and at times appeared emotional, but was glad to be back amongst his second family, his team. Frank thanked owner Tom Gores and president Joe Dumars for their support, while also thanking his staff for increased responsibilities.
Assistant coach Brian Hill was acting head coach for the six games, keeping in contact with Frank throughout.
"I spoke to coaches every day," Frank said. "Watched the games, went through it. Texted our guys and do what you can do from where you're at. Excited to be back with our team. I want to thank our coaches, it's not an easy thing to go on the road with the way we've been playing."
The Pistons have lost eight straight, and Frank felt it was time to get back, having monitored their struggles in this month — where they've yet to win a game.
"Once I leave the court, I'll be back to my wife," Frank said. "That's life, it's a bunch of curveballs. I want to be present.
"The organization has stood behind me I want to be behind the organization and we want to get this ship back on track."
Andre Drummond will be evaluated before Friday's game against the Miami Heat, and a return could be on the horizon as he recovers from his back injury.
"What I'll do is talk with Arnie (Kander) and see what he can do," Frank said. "If a guy's healthy you want him to play. Especially a young guy. If he's not healthy you don't do that. We're paid to play. If Andre's healthy enough, he'll be on the court."
There are some who feel the Pistons should keep Drummond on the shelf for the rest of the season, but he's attacked his rehab and the Pistons would love to see how he pairs with Greg Monroe and Jose Calderon, so they won't hold him back.
"If the doctors give him the heads up and everybody's comfortable with it, we'd love to get him back on the floor," Frank said.