When Tom Gores was introduced on Thursday, he promised to meet with John Kuester and finally decide the fate of his embattled head coach: "We're going to do that, and we're going to do that fast."
And fast Gores was. Today, just three days later, the Detroit Pistons announced that Kuester was officially relieved of coaching duties:
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced today that John Kuester will not return next season as the team’s head coach. The decision was made following a meeting between ownership and the head coach.
"Decisions like this are difficult to make," said Dumars. "I want to thank John for his hard work and dedication to the organization over the last two years, however, at this time we have decided to make a change."
Kuester, who was named head coach on July 9, 2009, tallied a regular-season record of 57-107 in two season’s with the Pistons. He served one season in Detroit as an assistant coach under Larry Brown in 2003-04, helping the Pistons win the NBA Championship that year.
In a subsequent release, Dumars indicated that the search for Kuester's replacement has begun:
"As our organization moves forward and prepares for the future, the search for our club’s new head coach is a priority and will begin immediately. However, at this time, we do not have a timetable for hiring a successor. We’ll conduct our due diligence privately and announce a decision when we’ve identified that individual."
If the rumors are true, Kuester won't wait very long to find work: a former assistant under Mike Brown in Cleveland, Kuester reportedly has a spot waiting for him on Brown's staff in Los Angeles. I really hope that's the case. Kuester put in two decades of hard work climbing the coaching ladder, and he deserves a chance to land on his feet.
Kuester wasn't Detroit's first choice (he was hired only after Karen Davidson nixed Avery Johnson's salary demands) and he certainly made his share of mistakes. But every rookie head coach goes through growing pains, especially when handed a team on the decline.
It's not his fault the depth chart he inherited was woefully imbalanced, or that the roster was basically set in stone due to an excruciating 18-month ownership transition. And instead of being able to lean on his veterans for stability, Detroit's longest tenured players turned out to be the most sensitive to change. In many respects, Kuester never had a chance, regardless of his credentials.
I wish Kuester well, and I don't hold him wholly responsible for his 57-107 record. He wasn't dealt a fair hand, but he'll be a better coach for his experience in Detroit, whether he remains an assistant or eventually returns to a head coaching role.