My first reaction to the news that Maurice Cheeks is going to be the head coach of the Detroit Pistons was "meh" and I wasn't the only one. Despite the fact that coaching in Detroit is a risky move for coaches with other opportunities, there were expectations that our deep-pocketed owner, Tom Gores, GM Joe Dumars, and unpaid advisor Phil Jackson were going to reel in a more wowing name. Cheeks has a great name for pun purposes, but his coaching history leaves enough to be desired.
Choosing Cheeks seems to be the safe play, providing some credence to those who did not want Lawrence Frank fired. Cheeks has NBA playing experience, something the five-foot-eight Frank did not have (and Cheeks was a four-time All Star, so the Rip Hamiltons can't disrespect him for it), but their coaching resumes weren't all that different when hired by the Pistons.
If I could go back two years and choose between Cheeks and Frank, I'd admittedly choose Cheeks, but if Cheeks was hired two years ago, we might be talking about Frank's hiring today. As Keith Langlois said in his post Mo's Moment, "being in the right place at the right time under the right circumstances is more often than not what separates success from failure." Cheeks is obviously coming into a better situation than Frank's in 2011.
Cheeks will have Andre Drummond entering his second season, another lottery pick, and more than $20 million in cap space for free agents. If the Pistons don't improve, it can't be on the coach this time; it should be on the ultimate decision maker. Coaches certainly weigh in with their input for the type of players they want, and they'll always be scapegoats, as unfair as it may be at times, but the general managers have the authorizing signatures and thus, they need to be held accountable at some point.
Langlois compares Cheeks to Doc Rivers, pointing out that Rivers didn't have the glitzy name at the time he was hired by the Celtics. Langlois also adds, though, that Rivers was 50 games under .500 after his first two seasons until the GM, Danny Ainge, brought in future Hall of Famers, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Hmm, it's weird they started to win a lot more games.
It might be Mo's moment to finally reap the benefits of being in the right situation, but that depends on how the lottery pick and free agency monies are handled. Moreso than Mo, it's Joe Dumars' moment to get it all right again. If he doesn't, he's inevitably going to get another coach fired, and himself this time, too.