The Detroit Pistons remain in the market for a head coach to replace Dwane Casey, and there have been some shifts in the coaching landscape since the last time we wrote up the situation in Detroit.
As a slight recap, the last we heard, Kevin Ollie, a longtime NBA veteran, former college coach and current Overtime Elite executive, Charles Lee, assistant coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Jarron Collins, assistant coach of the New Orleans
Hornets Pelicans were labeled the “front-runners” for the position with the Pistons.
Since those three names emerged, however, Nick Nurse got fired in Toronto and, more importantly, Mike Budenholzer got fired in Milwaukee after an unexpected first-round exit.
It is unclear what Milwaukee’s plan is to replace the veteran head coach while they remain in the thick of a title window behind Giannis Antetokounmpo and a veteran squad. Do they want a relatively clean slate or do they want to maintain some consistency between the pre- and post-Bud years.
If it’s the latter, that means Charles Lee could replace Budenholzer in Milwaukee. If you’re curious what Vegas thinks, they currently have Lee as the two-to-one favorite to land the job with the Bucks, just ahead of Nick Nurse (3-to-1), Kenny Atkinson (4-to-1) and Adrian Griffin (5-to-1). It should be noted, the early money is not always the smart money.
Lee also interviewed on Thursday for the vacancy in Toronto.
Speaking of Bud, is he a worthy candidate for the position in Detroit? It doesn’t appear so, and even if the Pistons were interested, I’m not sure he would have much interest in them — one 7-foot-3 potential lottery pick notwithstanding.
As for the other top candidates for the Pistons job, it seems like it could be Kevin Ollie who is leading the pack. A recent Athletic mailbag touched on the Pistons job and James Edwards III who offered up a little informed speculation, saying “Ollie is a real candidate who, I believe, is the front-runner for the vacancy.”
It should be noted that we don’t know a source within the Pistons organization directly said those words, but it’s Edwards reading the tea leaves as best he can.
In the same piece, Edwards writes that the leading candidates (presumably the three aforementioned front-runners) are flying to Los Angeles next week to meet with Tom Gores. He also says that he “wouldn’t be surprised if a coaching hire is made next week.”
While we wait for the final announcement to come, we have plenty of time to work up angst and coping mechanisms for whomever the eventual hire will be.
Charles Lee is unproven as a first-time head coach at any level, but also has nine years of experience as an assistant coach in the NBA. But all nine of those years are under Budenholzer, which, it seems the league has turned on as a largely unimaginative coach with a limited ceiling. Not saying I agree, but that’s the “narrative.”
Then there is Jarron Collins. He has many years of NBA experience, and he cut his teeth working on a deep bench behind Steve Kerr and others in Golden State. He moved over to New Orleans and while the team disappointed overall, they seemed to build a top-10 defense, with many giving Collins the credit. But some feel like this is a bit early and he’s not quite the head coach in waiting that Lee is.
Finally there is Ollie. In some respects, he has the most experience as the only one with head-chair responsibilities, though that was limited to his time coaching UConn.
He also had the longest NBA career at 13 years playing the demanding point guard position. Many former stars, from LeBron James to Kevin Durant, credited Ollie for his mentorship and for building them up as young players.
After flaming out in UConn and leaving in a cloud of scandal, Ollie spent years working through a protracted lawsuit against his former employer and was largely off the grid from 2018 to 2021. After prevailing (and being awarded millions) from UConn, he moved over to the upstart Overtime Elite program.
It’s hard to evaluate his role there or what he’s learned in the intervening years. In talking about his work, he reflects on his love of teaching and molding the minds of young players. But you’re not looking to OTE to really get a sense of X’s and O’s acumen.
For what it’s worth, I hope Edwards is correct that this decision is coming next week. It’s at least one less thing to be having an existential crisis about as a Pistons fan waiting for the NBA Draft Lottery.