When Joe Dumars canned Michael Curry, he gave himself an unofficial deadline of a week to settle on a new coach. Well, today's the day, and as this post goes to press, there's still a vacancy at the end of the bench. Doug Collins backed out, Avery Johnson seems to want too much money and Tom Thibodeau and John Kuester, despite a combined 36 years on NBA sidelines as assistants, are naively regarded by the ticket-buying public as "inexperienced."
So what's a guy to do? If you're Chris McCosky, it's Dave Cowens time:
This is a Hall-of-Fame player who has had two stints as a head coach, one a success in Charlotte, the other a mess in Golden State.
This is a man who has paid his dues, a man who has learned more from his mistakes and from the mistakes of the other coaches he's worked for than he probably has from his successes. He's more ready to coach now, in terms of knowledge, energy and temperament, than he ever was.
Plus, he's intimately familiar with the players on this team and the structure of the organization having been here for two seasons.
[...] His opinions and suggestions last season were sought by many of the players last season, especially Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess, even if they weren't often solicited by Curry.
I believe Curry could have saved himself some grief if he had allowed Cowens to have more input.
Technically Cowens has three stints as an NBA head coach -- he was a player coach with the Celtics back when such things still existed in 1978-79. And, if you really want to split hairs, he also guided the WNBA's Chicago Sky to a 5-29 record during the franchise's expansion season in 2006.
In any case, if Curry was shutting Cowens out last year, it may help explain why Cowens was reassigned from Curry's staff to a front office position the week before Curry was fired. With Curry out of the picture, perhaps Cowens might return to the bench.
But as a head coach? I'm not sure he has a fresh enough voice to invigorate the roster (or the fans), no matter how much the veterans respected him last year. The past three years have been three of the most disappointing years in Pistons history, and Cowens has had a first-hand look from the bench the entire time. Whether it's fair or not, there's something to be said from simply starting fresh.
I'm not sure that means Avery Johnson, the presumed favorite, is a better alternative. Despite a pair of 60-win seasons with the Mavericks, Johnson has only four years of coaching experience at any level, and it showed in the way he managed game-plans and tried to rule the locker room with an iron fist when the going got rough.
Maybe those episodes have helped him mature as a head coach, but that's as much of a gamble as rolling the dice on a guy like Thibodeau or Kuester, who have spent decades upon decades coaching on the collegiate and professional level -- especially when you consider these next few years for the Pistons will be as much about teaching and developing as actually contending.
There are no sure things in this process (well, short of coaxing Jeff Van Gundy away from the broadcaster's booth or dipping Hubie Brown into the fountain of youth), and crossing viable candidates who happen to lack NBA head coaching experience off the list simply because Michael Curry was an abject failure would needlessly compound the mistake of hiring Curry in the first place.
Update: Johnson is officially off the list:
"Where we are right now as a team is kind of like where we were at the start of the Rick Carlisle era," Dumars said. "And a $4 to $5 million (a year) coach is not what we need right now. We didn't have one of those until we were close to contending for a championship when we got Larry (Brown)."
Dumars said the coach probably will be either John Kuester, the former Pistons assistant now with the Cavaliers, or Tom Thibodeau, a Celtics assistant