Rick Carlisle won 100 games in '01-02, yet was fired because he supposedly didn't see eye-to-eye with Joe Dumars and Bill Davidson.
Larry Brown won 108 games the next 2 seasons, including an NBA title and a Finals loss, but was canned after looking for another job during the season. Basically, Brown had his bags packed and ready to leave before the Pistons closed out the regular season.
Now, Dumars has shown Flip Saunders the door today after winning 176 games over 3 years. Saunders' great downfall was his 3 consecutive Eastern Conference Finals losses.
Dumars can continue to fire coaches every couple years, but it seems to me that the problem lies elsewhere. We've had largely the same cast of characters for the past 5 years and nothing has changed. Every year, we win 50+ games, cruise through the first two rounds of the playoffs, then, bam!, something changes. All of a sudden, we go through scoring droughts and commit dumb fouls. We struggle to keep our emotions intact as the deficit grows. As a veteran-laden team, that type of immature behavior and sloppy play at such a crucial time of the year is mind-boggling.
I think the time is right to move on from some players, rather than coaches. We've gone as far with this current core as we can possibly go. I hope Dumars realizes this as well and begins making the necessary changes.
Wallace is the first to go in my opinion. He turns 34 in September and will be in the last year of his contract. If we can get the right price for him, I would certainly set him free. His technicals were down in the regular season, but they went right back up in the playoffs. His inability to contain his emotions is no longer a source of motivation and inspiration for us. It's a nuisance and something that shouldn't be tolerated from a supposed team leader.
The Pistons have solid replacements for him in Jason Maxiell and Amir Johnson. The pair is younger, cheaper, and a whole lot more athletic. For some reason, perhaps matchups, Maxiell's minutes have yo-yoed up and down recently. To maximize his full potential, we have to give the man some consistent time. There's no other way to establish a rhythm. Saunders was hesitant to use Maxiell against taller players, but I think his leaping ability and strength compensate for his smaller stature. Johnson ran into too much trouble to receive more PT, but a little more practice can cure that quickly. He too is extremely athletic and an intelligent player for his age. I already see tremendous potential in his post moves and ability to shoot a mid-range J. Given more regular playing time, I can easily see Johnson and Maxiell surpassing Wallace's production.
I also wouldn't be surprised to see Dumars move Billups or Hamilton, if he finds the right deal. Both have tons of extra mileage on their bodies and are on the wrong side of 30. Historically, guards have shown to break down quicker than big men. That may be more true of someone like Hamilton who takes such a pounding moving off the ball. Whomever Dumars chooses to move, he has a future All-Star waiting in the wings in Rodney Stuckey. The Eastern Washington alum can play the 1 or 2 because of his size/speed combo. While I think Wallace will be moved before either starting guard, some type of shake-up must happen. Moving a starting guard would send that message.
Early reports have Michael Curry being named the new head coach. This may look radical at first, given Curry's lack of coaching experience (1 year as a Piston assistant). However, he has always been that "coach on the floor" type similar to Avery Johnson. And, look at the job Johnson did with his limited coaching experience. Curry was a captain for the Pistons and the Bucks, while also serving for a number of years as the NBA Players Union President. I actually love this decision, should it go through. Earlier, I said that the coach wasn't the problem, but since Saunders is already gone, I am in favor of hiring Michael Curry. The Pistons starters seem to really respect Curry and what he has to say. If you watch the players during timeouts and before they go back to the floor, look at who they are talking to. It's rarely Saunders; it's usually Curry or Terry Porter. While Dumars has allowed Porter to interview with Phoenix and Chicago, he has kept Curry under lock and key. Now, we know why. Dumars was saving Curry for this job. Let's not just hire a big name to satisfy a few fans. Hire the guy who will do a good job and have players respect him. Because really, that's all that NBA coaching is about: Getting the players to respect you and work hard for you.
Saunders may have won almost 60 games a year, but in this new world of Palace sellouts and yearly contention, that was not enough. All of the facial tics and quasi-mullets weren't going to save Flip from losing his job. He never seemed to connect with the players or fans. There was always one more thing he could've done or one thing he didn't do right. Those problems came to fruition moreso in the playoffs with the heightened expectations. Saunders never got over that final hump. Whether it was truly his fault will never be determined. But, I think Dumars has to start over for 2008-09 and it begins with a new coach. Soon enough, we could wave goodbye to Wallace, McDyess, maybe even Hamilton. One thing is for certain, this is bound to be an intriguing summer, starting with the Draft on June 26.