In the smartest move that Joe Dumars has made in several years, bumbling head coach Michael Curry was fired today after one hugely dissappointing 39-43 season. It seemed that Joe and Curry have been the closest of friends since back to their teammate days, and Dumars seemed elated to fire Flip Saunders and make his idiotic friend the head coach. When it happened, we all knew it was a mistake, but we tried to give the guy a chance. We tried, but he gave us reason after reason to call for his head. Clashing with players, failing to motivate or inspire or draw up a single decent play, forgetting about key bench players for long stretches and having no semblance of a consistent rotation are just a few of Curry's downfalls.
The mis-management with which Curry (and Dumars, for that matter) handled the Hamilton-Iverson saga was downright pathetic. I understand you're dealing with the egos of NBA superstars, but really, you couldn't get them to cooperate and focus on the good of the team? Isn't that your job? The truth is, Curry wasn't good at his job, and in our cutthroat economic climate, someone as bad at what they do as he is shouldn't continue to be employed. At least not as an NBA coach. Maybe he can be a parking attendant for some college basketball games or something. He could probably manage that.
I haven't done much research into the possible replacements for Curry, or the reasons why he was fired, but I have plenty of speculation as to both.
Firstly, rumors of possible head coaches for the 2009 Pistons are already flying around like crazy. Avery Johnson, Doug Collins, and Bill Laimbeer head the list, and I've also heard Jeff VanGundy, John Kuester, and others. As great as it would be to see Lambo sitting in the head coach's chair in the Palace, and yes, it would be monumentaly awesome, I don't see him being a great NBA coach. He is more of the Disney movie bad-guy coach, who commands his players to intentionally injure the other team's star player. (Adam Banks, anyone?) The early reports are already saying that Laimbeer will not be coaching the Pistons, but do you really trust what the reports say? The same reports that said Favre was retired and Sosa wasn't on steroids ...
John Kuester was a big piece of Larry Brown's coaching staff and is known as something of an offensive-minded genius, which bodes well for the Pistons. However, I don't like the idea of giving another unheard-of guy the chance to be an NBA coach for the first time. Also, I don't see VanGundy as a very realistic option, more of a pipe dream.
Avery Johnson and Doug Collins seem the two most likely and desirable options. Collins already coached the Pistons once before and wasn't great, but he didn't have much to work with. Johnson is a proven winner and inspires discipline and structure and defense. An inconsistent bunch of whiners (like the Pistons) could do well with a coach like that, or they could utterly revolt and become even worse. Collins has been commentating games and turning down coaching jobs for years, but the challenge of coming back to Detroit might be enough to lure him out of broadcasting. I'd love to see either guy on the bench for the Pistons. A proven winner, an experienced coach, and a motivator: what more could we ask for. If I had to give the edge to one guy over the other, I'd say Avery, for three reasons: 1) He always looks cool, 2) His squeaky-high voice makes me laugh, and 3) His track-record of mentoring point guards and making them into unselfish stars. I can't think of a more perfect coach for Stuckey.
Now, the other question I have been pondering for the past nine hours since I found out about the firing is: Why? Not that I disagree at all with the decision, but it's still very surprising. Dumars and Curry are, like, totally BFFs. Remember last year when Dumars said that since he became President of Operations, no Pistons coach had seen eye-to-eye with him as well as Curry. That quote came in the middle of a losing streak and an under-.500 record if my memory serves me correctly. Dumars was blinded by some kind of dumb love for one painful year, but thank God he managed to snap out of the trance and fire Curry just in time for free agency.
So was it a coincidence that Curry's termination came less than 24 hours from the dawn of the NBA Free Agency? Some reports say no, others say yes. I have to say no, not a coincidence. Probably one of the primary reasons. (Although, the free agent we've heard the most about all spring, Carlos Boozer, just opted to stay with the Jazz earlier today.) Apparently, someone other than Boozer has been at the top of the Pistons wish-list, and when Boozer learned of this he decided he would rather (for financial reasons, I'm sure) stay with Utah. Who could this mystery free agent be, that the Pistons have been coveting even more than Boozer? I have two guesses: Ben Gordon, or Hedo Turkolu. (P.S. - I don't particularly want either guy.)
Curry's legacy with the Pistons will be a one-year dud who couldn't get along with his players. He always seemed a little angry and bitter in his dealings with the media, as if to convey that we couldn't possibly understand how brilliant he is and how difficult it is to be an NBA coach. Well Mr. Curry, I've seen plenty of other coaches do it, and actually win more than half their games, with loads less talent that you had to work with. About halfway through last season, Curry developed a random and psychotic fatuation with Arron Afflalo, a mediocre role-player at best. He gave Afflalo waaaay too many minutes, assigned him the defensive role of guarding the other team's best player, and most egregious of all, allowed him to shoot technical free throws!! Even when Rip, Tayshaun, Iverson, and/or Stuckey were on the floor! It was so strange and discomforting to watch the googly eyes and mesmerized smile that Curry always had on his face when he watched Afflalo play. Curry tried to convince us that Arron was "a lockdown defender," which we could tell by watching the games he clearly was not. He used terms like "efficient," "hard-working," and "unselfish" to describe Afflalo's playing style. Those are code-words for: not very good.
Here's the point of the Afflalo tangent: I think, and always thought last year, that Curry was living vicariously through our second-string 2 guard. As a player, Curry was never exceptional. Actually, he was never even good. He was okay. Solid at defense, but a liability on offense. It seemed that he had a hard time admitting what his strengths and weaknesses were as a player, and wanted to be remembered as a legend. He wasn't. He was a role-player during the wretched Teal Jersey days. Seeing a player who was so similar to him in Afflalo, Curry seemed obsessed with showcasing his talents and always talking positively about him. It was way too common for Curry to be heard tirading against the problems of Hamilton and Prince's play, but never, ever, did he say a bad word about Arron Afflalo. Why? Because that would be like bad-talking himself.
Curry was all about his image. He tried so hard to create the cool, calm and confident swagger that great coaches posses, but it was always obvious he was faking it. He wasn't calm. He was sweating through his suitcoat. He certainly wasn't cool; he never said anything funny or witty or even smart in one of his press conferences. He was a kid playing coach, in way over his head but pretending he knew what he was doing. He got caught. Now we can send him away and let a real coach do the job.
Now for a few quick words about free agency:
With the news that Boozer (and fellow Jazz player Mehmet Okur) will be staying in Utah, Detroit's options in the free agency suddenly seem dwindled. One thing's for sure: after trading Chauncey Billups for Allen "Cap Space" Iverson, and not making any effort to re-sign Rasheed Wallace, and recently trading Amir Johnson's 3+ million dollar contract for more cap space, the Pistons have more money to spend this offseason than any other team. Only two teams are close, the Grizzlies and the Thunder, and few free agents want to play for them. We have tons of money to spend, and better start spending it unless we want the Chauncey trade to be all for naught.
If Dumars fails to pull the trigger on a big contract this summer, don't freak out; it only means he's saving the heaps of cap room for the summer of 2010, when LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Nash, and loads of other stud players will be enter free agency. As much as it would suck to suffer through the 2009 season with our current lackluster roster, it would be worth it we end up investing 25 or 30 million into Chris Bosh, as opposed to say, Charlie Villanueva or Chris Kaman, if we act too rashly this summer.
A starting group of Stuckey, Hamilton, Prince, Maxiell and Kwame Brown looks like maybe a 30 win team. Let's hope Dumars does something, at least one intelligent move this offseason, otherwise we're in for a dismal 2009. Well, I guess he's already done at least one smart thing. He fired Michael Curry.