Pistons assistant coach John Loyer, left, has 32 games to prove himself as an NBA coach. (Duane Burleson / Associated Press)
The John Loyer era with the Pistons starts Monday night against the San Antonio Spurs, as he moves over from the lead assistant spot to the big chair, replacing fired coach Maurice Cheeks.
Loyer has been with the Pistons since the arrival of Lawrence Frank, Cheeks’ predecessor, and has been noted as a good X’s and O’s coach with a defensive background. He’ll have 32 games to prove his worth as a head coach.
Here are a few of the potential head coaches the Pistons could look at this offseason.
Lionel Hollins, 60: Coach of Memphis from 2008-13, leading the Grizzlies to the West finals in 2013 before being fired. Went 56-26 last season, with four straight years of improvement in Memphis. Known as a hard-nosed, defensive-minded coach, a disciplinarian. Was a candidate to be an assistant on Cheeks’ staff this summer before going to NBA-TV to be a studio analyst.
Kelvin Sampson, 58, Rockets assistant: Currently on Kevin McHale’s staff, having taken over when McHale had family issues to tend to. Former college coach at Indiana and Oklahoma before coming to the NBA. Has an out in his contract that allows him to leave the Rockets during the season for any NBA head coaching job. Defensive-minded coach who interviewed for the Pistons’ head coaching opening in 2011, a job that eventually went to Frank.
Nate McMillan, 49, Pacers assistant: Interviewed for the Pistons’ head coaching job this past summer before the job went to Cheeks. Coached the Sonics and Trail Blazers, with seven seasons of .500 or better in 12 years. Defensive-minded coach, very structured. Was on the USA Basketball staff for the 2008 and 2012 Olympic games as an assistant to coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Stan Van Gundy, 54: Former coach of the Heat (2003-06) and Magic (2007-12). Led Heat to 2005 East finals and took the Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009. Never missed the playoffs in any full season he coached. Known for motivating players, pushing buttons but abrasive style is dangerous, leading to less-than-ideal departures in Miami and Orlando.
Bill Laimbeer, 56: Current coach and GM of WNBA’s New York Liberty. Won three WNBA championships as coach of the Detroit Shock. An assistant with the Timberwolves for one season, his only NBA coaching experience. Played for the Pistons from 1982-93, known for his role in the Bad Boys’ physical play that helped win two NBA titles in 1989-90. In his playing days, known as cerebral and an irritant, which he carries over to coaching.
Tom Izzo, 59: Current Michigan State coach has had flirtations with the Hawks and Cavaliers. Has taken Michigan State to six Final Fours, with a national title in 2000. At 59, if he’s going to take an NBA job, sometime in the near future would be best, although he previously ruled it out. After MSU lost Sunday at Wisconsin, Izzo had no comment when he was asked whether he would again consider an NBA job.