Official Player Websites Subscribe - Free Newsletter

Sports News First

Pistons players in dark over coach firing

By Chris Pike
10 February 2014 04:26PM EST

DETROIT pulled a surprise on Sunday firing head coach Maurice Cheeks and it certainly came as quite a shock to the Pistons players when the media alerted them to the NBA team's decision.

After a remarkable run between 2003 and 2008 where the Pistons made six consecutive eastern conference finals and went to the NBA finals twice including beating the LA Lakers in 2004 to win the franchise's third championship, it has been slim pickings since.

The Pistons have only made the playoffs once since, swept by Cleveland in 2009, and compiled a combined 111-201 in the seasons since.

But there was understandably high hopes coming into the 2013/14 campaign after some impressive off-season signings.

Detroit finally reopened its cheque book and signed explosive swingman Josh Smith from Atlanta and creative, and dangerous point guard Brandon Jennings in two of the biggest signings across the NBA coming into the new season.

The Pistons also welcomed back 2004 Finals MVP Chauncey Billups and adding those three players to emerging big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, as well as existing players Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum, Kyle Singler and draft pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was meant to make them an eastern conference threat again.

Cheeks was signed as the new head coach to replace Lawrence Frank and all things were in place for the Pistons to have a solid season, and the deck fell in place with the eastern conference being terrible but they have not been able to take advantage.

Former captain and Finals MVP Billups was expected to still be able to contribute upon return to the Pistons this season, but the 37-year-old has been limited to just 19 appearances all season long due to on-going injury complaints.

The Pistons currently sit on a 21-29 record after the first 50 games of the season despite winning their last two matches with Jennings and Smith starring on Saturday night combining for 65 points in a thumping of the Denver Nuggets at home.

It wasn’t enough to save Cheeks' job though.

While the decision to fire Cheeks is understandable, the way it was handled left plenty to be desired with the news leaking out to the media before the club was able to inform the players.

Jennings' initial reaction when he saw news reports come out on Twitter was of shock with the Pistons' organisation clearly not having shared the news with their star point guard yet.

Just 20 minutes later, Jennings had processed the news and paid tribute to his coach of just 50 games.

"Wait what," was Jennings initial reaction to hearing of Cheeks' sacking.

"I will like to thank Mo Cheeks for everything, thank you for helping me become a better person and player. I'm still learning."

Pistons veteran Charlie Villanueva was also shocked at the initial news, but then calmed down when it sunk in.

"Is it true?," was Villanueva's initial reaction.

"We must stay strong. This is part of the game. Must stay focus and keep playoff in mind. We are a talented team, one game at a time."

Despite how bad the eastern conference is, the Pistons are looking on from the outside of a playoff spot despite the fifth-placed Washington only holding a 25-25 record and the eighth-placed Charlotte being on a paltry 22-29.

Cheeks, a former star point guard for 15 years in the NBA most notably for his first 11 seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers, was in his third stint as a head coach after previous runs at Portland and Philadelphia, and this could spell the end of the 57-year-old's career at the helm of a club.

However, the Pistons felt they simply had no choice after the way the team has underperformed despite a roster consisting of Smith, Jennings, Stuckey, Drummond and Monroe.

"This was a difficult decision for the organisation to make but we needed to make a change. We have great respect for Maurice and appreciate his hard work," said president of basketball operations, and former All-Star championship-winning guard Joe Dumars.

Owner Tom Gores also echoed those statements.

"Our record does not reflect our talent and we simply need a change. We have not made the kind of progress that we should have over the first half of the season. This is a young team and we knew there would be growing pains, but we can be patient only as long as there is progress," Gores said.

"The responsibility does not fall squarely on any one individual, but right now this change is a necessary step toward turning this thing around. I still have a lot of hope for this season and I expect our players to step up. I respect and appreciate Maurice Cheeks and thank him for his efforts; we just require a different approach."

Your view first

Add your comment... Comments (0)