DBB Countdown: George Irvine’s 46 wins

There are On Saturday there were 46 days left until the Pistons kick off the 2008-09 season.

Speaking of 46, George Irvine won a grand total of 46 games in his short time at Detroit's helm. Irvine has become something of a forgotten man in Pistons history, which is a shame considering he bridged the gap from the disappointing Teal Era to Detroit's current status as a perennial contender.

Irvine was on the bench for Grant Hill's final year in Detroit, opening the 1999-2000 season as an assistant under Alvin Gentry before taking over as interim head coach once Gentry was fired in January. The Pistons finished 14-10 under Irvine before being swept by the Heat in the first round.

Detroit was supposed to lose -- Miami was a No. 2 seed, after all -- but their efforts were hampered by Hill's untimely foot injury. Irvine actually pleaded with Hill not to play, and in hindsight, Hill should have listened: this was the injury that eventually required four surgeries and nearly derailed the rest of Hill's career.

Irvine wasn't initially considered a serious candidate to return in 2000-01 as the permanent head coach (if you can believe it, Bill Laimbeer was the favorite at one point) but Joe Dumars decided he was the man for the job, in part because he was favored by Hill. As we all know, Hill had other plans, abandoning Detroit in favor of a rich contract with the Magic, although Dumars was shrewdly able to get back Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins in a sign-and-trade.

Wallace was the foundation on which the 2004 title team was built, but the Pistons in 2000 looked nothing like the championship team it'd eventually become. In Irvine's lone full season at the helm, Detroit went 32-50, and the only excitement late in the year was whether Jerry Stackhouse and Wallace would lead the league in scoring and rebounding, respectively. As was the theme that year, even those quests ended in disappointment. (Though leading the league in total points scored and total rebounds, Stackhouse and Wallace finished second with their per-game averages.)

Irvine was fired at the end of the season, though no one seemed to hold him responsible. Dumars' master plan had yet to reveal itself, and as laughable as it seems now, his judgment as well as his dedication and competency were questioned. Dumars made his critics look foolish the following year -- the Pistons reversed their record by going 50-32 under Rick Carlisle and haven't won fewer than 50 since -- but Irvine never got another head coaching job.

Irvine stayed around the NBA for awhile scouting for the Magic and Jazz but never came close to running his own team. These days, he's retired near Seattle, though he's avoided completely fading from the public eye by occasionally contributing articles for Basketball.org.

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