Auburn Hills — It is good to see Pistons owner Tom Gores is alive and kicking.
He disappears for too long and you wonder if he truly cares about the Pistons — if this is just his play toy he fiddles with for a moment and then throws in the corner when he is bored.
But Gores showed he cares about his team Sunday by firing Maurice Cheeks after just 50 games as head coach.
Gores saw what the rest of Pistons Nation saw: Despite a two-game winning streak, there would be more problems this season — more public disputes between coach and players, more slumps and bouts of selfish play. Cheeks was not the right guy after 50 games and he would not be the guy after 500 games.
The Pistons have burned through eight head coaches since 2000. That is a coach every 140˝ games. Yes, the Pistons won an NBA title, but they might have won another with more stability.
And they have not had a winning season since 2008.
Don't stop now
Now that Gores is engaged he must not stop with Cheeks’ firing. This is his team and he must build it in his image. When the season is complete he needs to part ways with general manager Joe Dumars, though it is not unreasonable to see Dumars making things easier for Gores and resigning before he gets pink-slipped.
Dumars cut his teeth with this franchise as a player and front-office guy. But his rock, Bill Davidson, is no longer here. Dumars is no longer the prince of The Palace; his time has come and gone.
The Pistons on Sunday promoted assistant coach John Loyer to interim head coach. His first game will be Monday night against the San Antonio Spurs. That tells me right there Dumars won’t return. If this were Dumars’ show for the long term, we might see someone like Lionel Hollins, Isiah Thomas or Bill Laimbeer coming in to coach.
If the idea is to make the playoffs this season, don't you think you have a better chance with an experienced NBA head coach rather than a quiet guy who has never been in charge of a team?
Now Gores has a chance to put his stamp on this franchise. The Pistons were in decline even before Dumars sent Chauncey Billups packing for Allen Iverson in 2008.
We still don’t know much about Gores as an owner. We simply know he came into town a week ago, looked over the situation and made the first of what should be many moves.
“Our record does not reflect our talent and we simply need a change,” Gores said in a statement. “We have not made the 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.”
Gores is right. The Pistons have enough talent to be a .500 team, yet they’re 21-29.
Gores owns this shipwreck and he probably doesn’t know what to do with it. Let me give him some advice:
He’s already issued his playoff-or-else edict for the season and can’t back down now. However, he can’t ignore long-term goals — that should be his most pressing concern.
Rodney Stuckey, Greg Monroe and Charlie Villanueva have been dangled as trade bait. The Pistons could go one of two ways. They could trade these pieces and try to get a small forward that could help them win now. Or they could trade these guys to free up cap space and retain their draft pick by slumping to one of the eight worst records in the league.
Option No. 2 means the Pistons would miss the playoffs for a fifth straight season. I am OK with that as long as they have one of the league’s eight-worst records so they can keep their pick in this talent-heavy draft.
The Pistons are a half-game behind Charlotte for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The last time the Pistons made the playoffs as an eight seed was 2009. They were swept by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
How did that experience work out? The Pistons are 132-226 since.
The Pistons likely would play the Pacers as an eight seed or the two-time defending champion Heat as a seventh seed. Both teams would sweep the Pistons. So what is the point?
The Pistons are a young team and playoff experience is an important learning experience. However, the Pistons might get drummed out before they can get their notebooks out.
“I still have a lot of hope for this season and I expect our players to step up,” Gores said.
Speaking of players, black marks on Cheeks’ record undoubtedly were the run-ins he had with Josh Smith and Will Bynum — which continue a trend of Pistons players having too much say. Does anyone remember the John Kuester mutiny?
Gores has to provide direction to this franchise. He has to establish a vision. If he doesn’t the Pistons will continue to play in front of a lot of empty seats.