Is he the right man for the job?
Only time will tell but the upcoming version of the Detroit Pistons surely will have a very different look than the one that we all came to appreciate and admire as they fought through the NBA wars to reach the Eastern Conference Finals six consecutive years.
Already Pistons President Joe Dumars has added draft picks Austin Daye, DaJuan Summers and Jonas Jerebko. The three just completed play in the 2009 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, and by most reports, Daye and Summers have shown enough to potentially earn a spot on the roster of 12.
Dumars has also added to his youth movement with the signing of Chris Wilcox, a 6-foot-10 center out of Maryland, to a two-year, $6-million
deal. Wilcox’s signing comes on the heels of free-agent additions guard Ben Gordon and forward Charlie Villanueva.
The team has suddenly taken on a young look with Rip Hamilton, 31, and Tayshaun Prince, 29, the old men on the team. Wilcox is 27, Villanueva,
24, and Gordon, 26. The Pistons also still have center Kwame Brown, 27, forward Jason Maxiell, 26, guard Rodney Stuckey, 23, and guard Will Bynum, 26.
One of the glaring weaknesses of last season’s 39-43 squad was a lack
of athleticism; other teams were quicker and played above the rim against them. Now, it is Kuester’s job to mold this motley crew of young, hopefully hungry basketball players into a cohesive group.
Of course, I wanted Avery Johnson to find his way to Detroit and The Palace of Auburn Hills. But he and Dumars could not iron out a workable deal. So Dumars, who fired first-year coach Michael Curry because he wanted a person with more experience, elected to go with Kuester, who hasn’t been an NBA head coach.
However, Dumars pointed to Kuester’s experience as a long-time assistant
in the league and the fact he has worked with some noteworthy basketball coaches.
Kuester played for Dean Smith in 1973-77 at North Carolina. He spent
seven seasons as an assistant with the Boston Celtics (1990-97) after
being hired by Red Auerbach, and left Beantown to become an assistant
for Larry Brown in Philadelphia. He followed Brown to Detroit in 2004
(when the Pistons were NBA champions), then worked for the Nets, the
76ers again and the Magic. He had been with the Cavaliers since 2007,
where he had total control of the Cavs’ offense.
A fair question is if Kuester is such a solid basketball mind and has
learned from the best, why hadn’t he been entrusted with a head coaching
opportunity before this one?
“You never do know when that opportunity is going to come,” Kuester
said at his introduction as coach of the Pistons. “One of the neatest things about coming back here is I’m coming back to people I know and trust. That was important to me. That opportunity does not always present itself but I’m sure blessed today.”
Dumars signed Kuester, 54, to a three-year deal reported at $2 million
Dumars told reporters that right now he wants to get this thing headed in the right direction.
“We’re going through a transition period now,” he noted, “so he’s not
going to be judged on, ‘Hey listen, we’re not in the finals.’ At this point
we have to get organized. You got to get a philosophy . . . a focus . . . an
identity. With the veterans we still have and the new players we have
coming in, he’s the right person to do the job.”
Kuester acknowledged he has “no magic formula” for getting the Pistons back to where they were in 2004.
“We’ve got to do a great job of communicating on and off the floor,”
Kuester said. “When you have that communication and help, then that
trust comes into play.”
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