Lawrence Frank said all the right things while being introduced as the Detroit Pistons coach Wednesday afternoon, including a vow to change the team's culture.
"It starts with a work ethic," Frank said. "It starts with investment versus entitlement. I think you get yourselves in a lot of problems when you feel you deserve things without working for it. You have to earn you way every single day, so it's investment versus entitlement.
"It's about accountability. You have to do what you say you're going to do. Now, the head coach has to enforce the accountability. And confrontation is healthy -- it's not always a negative thing, but to teach [and] correct.
"I've been around seven Hall of Fame players -- every player I've been [around] wants their coach to challenge them and wants them to connect. So you have to demand but you also have to be fair. So I think with your values, it's one thing to have them, and it's a totally different thing to enforce them. And I think that falls on my shoulders and on the team's shoulders."
Regardless of wins and losses, the most disappointing aspect of last season was how unlikeable the roster had become. A team that once prided itself on "Going to Work" every single day literally and figuratively took days offs, blatantly disrespecting (and often flat-out ignoring) its head coach. While only time will tell how the roster responds to Frank, his direct manner with the media suggests passive aggressive feuds are a thing of the past.
So what will the present look like? Due to David Stern's inane rules about NBA employees even mentioning a player's name in public during the lockout, Frank was unable to address specific questions about the roster, but he did promise a return to Detroit's roots. "We’re going to be a defense-first team, a rebounding team, an attacking team, a low-turnover, high-assist team," he said, before later stressing it again: "You have to compete at both ends, but we’ll be defense-first."
Listening to Frank break down answers into bullet points (and watching him frequently count off talking points with his hands), I couldn't help but think about how often he's been lauded for being organized and prepared. One quick example: Frank explaining the qualities he looks for in an assistant coach, "One, high character. Two, work ethic. Three, energy and passion. Four, lifelong learner. ... Our staff has to embody what we are about, and those are the qualities we are looking for."
That doesn't sound like a man riffing his way out of an unexpected question (ie, Joe Dumars trying to explain late in the press conference what exactly happened the last few years). It comes across as something he's put a lot of thought into. He's a man with a plan -- albeit one who stressed the need for cooperation from the roster to turn the franchise around.
"It's the players, not the plays," he said. "There's an old adage in coaching: 'it's not about the Xs and Os, it's about the Jack and Joes.' ... When I first sat down with Joe, the first 15 minutes basically he was talking about Coach [Chuck] Daly, and what he was as a coach. And what he hit on was why Coach Daly was one of the greatest coaches ever: it's about meshing and managing personalities. It's about getting 12 to 15 independent contractors, so to speak, to buy into one vision.
"It's not about the Xs and Os. Now, does that play a part? Of course. I don't think that our playbook is any more extensive than any other playbook, it's about the guys you're coaching, it's about getting them to play together, it's about getting them to buy into a common vision about what we're going to be about.
"And you know what? It's easy to do it when you're winning, it's hard to do it when you're struggling. And that's why as a coach, you have to stand for what you believe in: this is who we are, this is what we do. And if not, there's gotta be accountability and consequences. That's coaching."
Dumars admitted in his introduction that "we are desperate to find a long-term coach," and Wednesday was certainly a promising start. I mean, c'mon: he had me at "Coach Daly" -- and again at "accountability" and "consequences." Talk is cheap in early August with a lockout threatening the very existence of the upcoming season, but like Packey said midway through the presser, Frank killed it in his first public appearance as Detroit's new coach.
Video courtesy of the Detroit News: