Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Pistons' Rite Of Summer Arrives Again, Right On Schedule

Ah, summer in The D.

School's out, the kids are free.

A whiff of lighter fluid burning off the charcoal as another grilling session is about to begin, somewhere.

Fireworks being held in all the burgs.

Joe Dumars fires a coach.

It's a rite of summer around here. Pistons president Dumars gets an itchy finger and cans a coach.

Add Michael Curry's head to the wall, right next to Flip Saunders' mug, which is next to Larry Brown's, which is next to Rick Carlisle's, which is next to George Irvine's.

When will Dumars' noggin join them?

I run the risk of being the ole broken record here, so I'll just mention it once more.

Maybe Joe should coach the Pistons himself.

There -- I promise not to bring it up again. But me is thinking it.

Hiring and firing coaches is a cause and effect sort of thing.

Irvine was canned, back in the infancy of Dumars' tenure as team president, because he didn't have the fire in his belly. George admitted as much. He was the accidental coach, minding his own business as Alvin Gentry's assistant, when Gentry was fired toward the end of the 1999-2000 season.

Irvine was in the shower -- I'm not making this up -- when his wife told him the Pistons were on the phone.

George took the job, reluctantly (he'd been a head coach before and had no aspirations, really, to do it again), figuring it would just be for the rest of the season.

Dumars convinced him to remain as coach while Joe got his feet wet as an executive.

But Irvine wasn't really into the gig, and it showed.

Then Rick Carlisle, whose belly was simply bursting with fire, was hired.

Carlisle lasted two seasons and was canned, mainly because Dumars had the chance to hire....

...Larry Brown, who came with a resume, a road map, and a lot of baggage -- with the names of NBA and NCAA cities stickered all over it.

Brown lasted the usual two years before his antics repulsed the owner.

Enter Saunders, who was deemed the right fit after Brown's suffocating ways.

Flip did better than the others. He lasted three seasons.

But Flip Saunders rubbed the players the wrong way, eventually.

Maybe a recent NBA player might be the ticket. Someone who could better relate, perhaps, to the delicate synergy that had existed in the past with Pistons players and authority figures.

So Dumars hired Curry after just one season as Saunders' assistant.

Now we see how THAT turned out.

A 39-43 record. An embarrassing sweep at the hands of the formerly-tormented Cleveland Cavaliers. A complete loss of the players' respect.

Some of which was Dumars' fault, self-admittedly.

"Maybe I put too much on his plate for a first year coach," Dumars said yesterday, and it wasn't hard to figure out that he was largely referring to the Allen Iverson trade, so early in the season.

Ya think, Joe?

Part of an employer's responsibility is to put his workers in positions to succeed, not fail. When Dumars made the Iverson deal, he may as well have fired Curry on the spot, for Mike had no chance. I'm not sure that he had much of a chance before the trade, but was olly olly oxen free.

Rip Hamilton, by the way, disappointed me.

Hamilton pouted publicly and no doubt profusely privately after his friend Chauncey Billups was traded for Iverson. The usual mourning period was extended, a lot, in Hamilton's instance.

I began to be mystified by Hamilton's behavior and body language.

It wasn't easy, I know, for Rip to come off the bench when the backcourt got crowded, thanks to Rodney Stuckey's emergence as a starter. I wouldn't expect him to be happy about it -- even though some players have made quite a name for themselves as sixth men.

But Hamilton didn't even try to buy in, and whether that was an indictment of the inexperienced Curry, who knows. Likely, the fact that Rip had himself a rookie head coach with which to toy fueled his pouting jag.

Dumars is an anomaly.

Precious few other GMs, in any sport, ever get the opportunity to hire and fire more than two coaches, let alone six. This is because, normally, the owner looks at the guy hiring and firing and starts to wonder.

Dumars, it was written here yesterday, is in a slump. His Midas touch is no more. He has a bundle of cash but not the premier free agent destination that Auburn Hills once was. Joe D has to sell NBA players on playing for the Pistons harder than he ever has before.

Speculation is that the still-green Curry was an obstacle to players signing with the Pistons.

Dumars told WDIV-TV yesterday that's not true.

"Not at all...not that I've seen," he said in answer to that notion.

This is a great time for the Pistons to hire a coach that has a good chance of sticking around for a while. It's a time of transition -- a word that Dumars has used often -- and a time that begs for consistency and stability.

New free agents are sure to join the Pistons very soon, maybe even by the time your eyeballs hit this jabber. The contracts won't be for one or two years, either. A perfect time to wed them with a new regime.

An opportunity to wash away the stench of the way the Pistons' very successful recent run ended, and start a new, fresh one.

I can see the cover of the media guide now.

The newly-signed free agents, and a player or two from the previous regime, surrounding the newly-hired, EXPERIENCED coach, smiling brightly for the camera.

"The Pistons' Engine Has Been Rebuilt!"

I've got plenty of 'em.

Something tells me I'm going to need them, too.

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