The Pistons have cast a wide net in their coaching search, interviewing every candidate imaginable. But after an exhaustive search, two names keep being mentioned as leading the pack: Mo Cheeks and Nate McMillan.
It seems, though, that Cheeks is finally starting to edge ahead. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, Cheeks "was summoned to Detroit this weekend for a third-stage interview." He continues:
Sources told ESPN.com that Cheeks' trip was actually his first visit to Detroit as part of this process after conducting his first interview for the job by phone and then meeting separately with Los Angeles-based Pistons owner Tom Gores.[...] There have been strong signals in recent days that Cheeks has already won the endorsement of Pistons president Joe Dumars, but the involvement of Phil Jackson in the Pistons' search as an adviser to Gores has led some to speculate that Detroit must still be waiting for Indiana's season to end to talk to Pacers associate head coach and longtime Jackson protege Brian Shaw.
I'm curious if McMillan will get similar treatment, or if this interview really does position Cheeks as the prohibitive favorite. Either way, I'll be shocked (or at least disappointed) if the team makes a decision before having a chance to speak with Brian Shaw. He may be available as soon as this week, depending on what happens in Monday's Game 7 between the Pacers and Heat.
Let's face it, we haven't heard Cheeks connected with any other jobs -- and neither has HoopsHype, the definitive NBA rumor aggregator -- suggesting he'll be available whenever the Pistons make up their minds. (The fact that the rest of the league appears uninterested doesn't seem to be much of a red flag in Auburn Hills.)
I don't know much about Shaw or his coaching style, except that he apparently resents being forever linked to the Triangle offense he played and coached for so many years under Phil Jackson. From an interview in March with the Los Angeles Daily News (via BDL):
"I'm just perceived as just a triangle guy," he said. "I have conversations with Phil and I said, 'I thought working for you and playing for you would be my biggest asset going into interviews. Actually it's been my biggest liability.'
"We've laughed about it. He's said to me on more than one occasion, 'It's best for you to distance yourself from me and our system.' "
He's also already turned down an NBA head coaching job -- something very few coaches in the NBA can say -- by leaving the Bobcats hanging last summer. From the same interview:
"I want to be in a situation where I have a chance," Shaw said. "Usually when you come into your first head coaching job, you don't get to dictate what the situation is going to be. But you want a chance and an organization that has a game plan going forward that's sustainable and where you have some pieces of value where you can put things together and get on the fast track."
It begs the question: would he even be interested in the Pistons' job? Sure, the team has some interesting pieces on the roster, but is there anything whatsoever about the way this organization has treated head coaches under Joe Dumars' reign that suggests coaches have a chance? I suspect Jackson's presence would help Detroit's case, but even that is temporary (and may hint at instability in the front office).
Now your thoughts. Is Cheeks the best Detroit can get, or is Shaw worth the wait?