In the summer of 2009 yours truly made the observation that the 2008-2009 version of the Detroit Pistons had an on-going “internal” problem with their former head coach, Michael Curry, and the team’s core group of players who had been with Detroit during the successful run of the previous decade.
Essentially, this is what was said:
1. The Pistons had been unsuccessful, in large part … not because they had only “average-to-below-average” players on their roster, but … because the “average-to-above-average” players on their team had not been used appropriately by their head coach and such problems with their regular “rotation” would continue to be the primary cause of their failure, if the right head coach was not brought in by Joe Dumars/GM to address the situation moving forward.
2. Clear “Role Delineation” is a key component of a successful basketball coach’s job.
3. Fostering “Team Cohesion” is a key component of “Role Delineation” for a successful basketball coach.
4. An elite level basketball team that has several players who work best at the same position with a similar set of strengths and weaknesses needs to have their “individual roles” identified clearly by the head coach, in a way which establishes a clear hierarchy and allows their “best” players to receive the most playing time, on a consistent basis.
5. One way … of many different alternatives … to accomplish this type of “regular rotation” for the 2009-2010 Detroit Pistons, given their collection of Point Guards, Off Guards, Combo Guards, Guard-Forwards, Small Forwards and Combo Forwards would be to implement:
i. An exclusive 3-player rotation at the Point Guard and Off Guard positions;
in concert with,
ii. An exclusive 2-player rotation at the Small Forward position;
that looked something like the following:
PG, Rodney Stuckey
OG, Rip Hamilton
SF, Tayshaun Prince
PG-OG, Ben Gordon
SF, Jonas Jerebko [or Austin Daye]
and, thereby, excluded Will Bynum [PG] – a talented player, in his own right – from the mix on a consistent basis.
This type of regular rotation would have promoted very clear “Role Delineation” amongst the Pistons’ guards and forwards and enhanced “Team Cohesion”.
Unfortunately, instead of doing this …
John Kuester [i.e. new head coach] juggled his players incessantly in the different Point Guard, Off Guard and Small Forward roles;
The problem has only become worse with the inclusion of Tracy McGrady [PG-OG-SF].
Exhibit A - Prince and Kuester have words. Again.
Exhibit B – Pistons aren’t playing hard
Exhibit C - Hamilton at center of Pistons turmoil
Despite what you might have read - either, recently or over the last 2 seasons - from other “so-called” basketball analysts who rely primarily on stat-based metrics like “Wins Produced”, etc., to evaluate the abilities and relative worth of NBA players …
The main problem for the Pistons, since Larry Brown’s departure, as their head coach, has not been rooted in the ”below average” abilities of their players but the “poor fit” between their “best” players and the men Joe Dumars/GM has hired as their next 3 head coaches, i.e. Flip Saunders, Michael Curry and John Kuester.
While these Detroit teams have been short of the sort of overall “talent level” required to compete successfully for a place in the NBA Finals, this is not the main reason they have plummeted down the Eastern Conference standings, since the trade of Chauncey Billups [PG] for Allen Iverson [PG-OG].
In relative terms …
Authentic elite level basketball coaches are a rare commodity.
When a given NBA team fails to hire one of these select individuals to lead their on-court operation, it should really come as no surprise, at all, if the players on their roster are not able to reach their maximum capacity, either, individually or as a collective unit.
Hopefully, Joe D. will be able to solve THIS on-going problem for the Pistons.