News that Mike Woodson completed a second interview with the Detroit Pistons has sent fans and media alike scrambling.
Is the Steve Harvey lookalike the frontrunner? Are they working on a contract? Would the people at Family Feud need to be contacted for a buyout? O, is this merely the beginning of round two of interviews for Joe Dumars and company? All kinds of conjecture has been spreading like wildfire.
Regardless if Woodson is the Pistons choice sooner, later or never, it is certain that he is the safest candidate with the folks in Auburn Hills. He doesn’t come with the baggage or question marks of his “qualified” counterpart Lawrence Frank. He holds more experience than all of the other assistants who’ve been interviewed. He coached as part of the 2004 NBA championship staff under Larry Brown. Dumars and the organization know him, so he must fit like a glove, right?
Well, that’s not entirely true. Woodson may posess what many
of the other candidates do not, given his likely comfort and previous partnership with the Pistons and Dumars — but that does not mean he would be the best choice to run the team. Remember, John Kuester was also an assistant for the 2004 Pistons. He possessed the same comfort Woodson likely would in coming back around the organization, interviewing and getting reacquainted with past players.
However, that’s no indication of potential success. We all remember how well the Kuester experiment worked out. Many will be quick to point out that Kuester lacked meaningful head-coaching experience.
It is true, Woodson does have a leg up on Kuester (and current unexperienced candidates Bill Laimbeer, Kelvin Sampson and Patrick Ewing) in that department, having previously coached the Atlanta Hawks from 2004-2010.
Yet, what about his resume is impressive? His career record is 206-286, with an 11-18 playoff record. He did inherit a bad Atlanta team and turn them around to playoff contenders, but during his last season, the team was swept away in the second round of the playoffs after entering the post-season with high expectations. Atlanta, convinced they needed a new voice to take the next step, let Woodson go shortly after.
Frank, meanwhile, achieved a career record of 225-241, with an 18-20 playoff record. His New Jersey Nets teams won playoff series, but could never seem to get over the hump and win the big one. He was fired following (ironically enough) an 0-16 start to the 2009-10 season and is currently assisting Doc Rivers in Boston.
The bottom line? Woodson and Frank, the candidates hailed as more “experienced” coaches best fit for this situation have glaring warts. Jerry Sloan has not emerged as a candidate, nor has anyone else with a more distinguished NBA resume. In that case, what makes Woodson or Frank a better fit simply due to their NBA coaching experience, regardless of how menial or unimpressive it is? Laimbeer could prove just as successful as either of them. Ewing could turn out to be a spectacular hire, as well.
Still, many are quick to roast those two on a spit due to their lack of “experience” and fresh ink on an NBA coaching resume. Laimbeer made a WNBA team intimidating. Ewing has worked as an NBA assistant forever with successful teams, tutoring two solid NBA big men in the process. Surround either of those two larger than life personalities with enough capable assistants and the results could be great. Frank and Woodson? They’ve had their meltdowns and team issues as NBA head men just like Kuester did. That alone, coupled with the fact that an accomplished coach like Sloan has never entered the picture, should put all candidates on a level playing field.
The Pistons badly need to talk with Ewing once more, and should make him their top target. Laimbeer should be spoken with again, too, as well as Frank. Nobody wants to see a repeat of the infamous Kuester coaching search, where the Pistons rushed to hire the wrong assistant coach after talks with Avery Johnson broke down. Now, fans are forced to watch steady Tom Thibodeau leading a team in Chicago which will likely become a perennial contender. What if Ewing becomes the next great head coach and the Pistons are going through another firing 3 years from now after being dissapointed with Woodson?
Now is the time for the franchise to show creativity and due diligence, not merely a concern for comfort. Should the Pistons hire Woodson, it would be an admission they are content force feeding fans another 2004 legacy hire from Brown’s coaching tree, dressed up with a tad more experience and better suits.
It’s time to stop clinging desperately to that past.
If the Pistons are serious about returning to a slightly above-average status, then Woodson is their man in this coaching search. They’ll likely need to think outside the box and look at someone else to reshape a tough attitude of greatness, though.
Even if he doesn’t have any experience as an NBA head coach, that’s a risk they should be willing to explore to find the best fit.