The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

After yet another coaching change, Pistons trying to move on quickly amid playoff race

  • Print

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Chauncey Billups is nearing the end of a distinguished career and he has seen enough to realize that change can come at any time in the NBA.

Still, when the Detroit Pistons fired Maurice Cheeks after only 50 games as coach, he was surprised.

"I think, first of all, everybody was a little caught off guard," Billups said. "It's the NBA. You never know what's going to happen."

That's especially true when it comes to Detroit coaches, who have been coming and going with alarming frequency. It's been a decade since Billups led the Pistons to the 2004 NBA title. They haven't made the playoffs since 2009 and are now changing coaches for the fourth time since then.

Cheeks was fired Sunday, a move that was unexpected despite Detroit's continuing struggles. The Pistons were 21-29 entering Monday night's home game against San Antonio. They were only a half-game out of a playoff spot — thanks to the glut of mediocre teams in the Eastern Conference — when Cheeks was let go.

"It was definitely a surprise to me," forward Greg Monroe said. "You never want to see anybody lose their job."

Monroe has seen plenty of that since the Pistons drafted him in 2010. His rookie season was the second and final year of John Kuester's tumultuous coaching tenure, then Detroit gave Lawrence Frank two years as well before firing him.

Cheeks didn't even get half that — a sign that ownership and the front office may feel it's time for this team to make the transition from rebuilding to winning.

"Ownership's message was really — they want to give us the best opportunity to be successful, which is respectable from our perspective," said the 37-year-old Billups, who has played in only 19 games for Detroit this season. "They want us to know that they believe in us, and they expect a certain degree of commitment."

Cheeks was brought in as Detroit's ninth coach since the 1999-2000 season. Now assistant John Loyer is taking over the coaching duties on an interim basis.

"I told our guys it's got to be a gradual process. Playing hard supersedes anything we could possibly change, so we've got to start there," Loyer said. "But there's things we have to tweak on both sides of the ball, and we'll gradually do that."

Loyer inherits a lineup that was overhauled before the season, with mixed results so far. The Pistons traded for point guard Brandon Jennings and signed forward Josh Smith, moves they hoped would help the team increase its win total significantly.

Instead, Detroit is barely ahead of last season's pace — although a playoff berth would probably be viewed as progress no matter how low the bar has been set in the East.

The Pistons have won four of their last six, including one of their better performances of the season Saturday. Detroit beat Denver 126-109 that night. Jennings had 35 points and 12 assists, while Smith had 30 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

"It seemed like guys were getting into a good groove," Monroe said. "We just have to focus on what's ahead of us. We all know that we could be better."

Guard Rodney Stuckey sounded Monday like he was ready to block out all the extraneous talk about the coaching change and the franchise's direction.

"We play San Antonio tonight, so that's our focus," he said. "John Loyer is our head coach now, and that's what it is."

The Pistons have certainly shown recently that they're willing to switch coaches — but little else has changed at The Palace. Now, patience may be wearing thin.

"We kind of played ourselves into a hole a little bit," Billups said. "No one or two or three people involved in the whole thing is to blame. I think it was everybody."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Cheapskate: Publicity

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS / Jan 10  2011 ‚Äì WEB STDUP ‚Äì Frosty morning at -15 degrees C , in pic frost covers the the Nellie McClung statue  on the MB Legislature grounds at 7am
  • PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 060710 The full moon rises above the prairie south of Winnipeg Monday evening.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What Western Conference teams will emerge from the first round of the NHL playoffs?

View Results

Ads by Google