In either case, the Detroit Pistons have apparently heard something they liked from current Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Maurice Cheeks. After undergoing a previous interview, Cheeks was quickly called back for a second interview yesterday, adding another interesting wrinkle to the ever-evolving search for Detroit’s next basketball boss.
As the process has continued, Cheeks is the first known instance of a Pistons’ candidate receiving a call back. Last week, Brian Shaw’s name finally surfaced with regards to Detroit’s opening, but Shaw is in high demand, reportedly also a top choice for the Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers’ vacancies. How long will Joe Dumars be willing to wait to interview Shaw, who is currently embroiled in a playoff run with the Indiana Pacers? If that meeting should happen, would the Pistons appeal more to Shaw given Phil Jackson’s influence? Those two questions may be key to identifying Lawrence Frank’s successor.
Back to Cheeks for a moment. Quietly, he fills a few interesting criteria for the Pistons, who have reportedly been seeking a boss with equal parts playing and coaching experience. Joe Dumars disagreed with that assessment of Detroit’s search, but with the inclusion of well respected playing and coaching names like Nate McMillan, Shaw and Lindsey Hunter in addition to Cheeks, it’s not hard to see a pattern. Cheeks, for his part, has found success in both roles. An NBA champion in 1983, Cheeks also coached Portland and Philadelphia, though there were issues with both and neither team enjoyed much playoff success.
As an assistant with the Thunder since 2009, Cheeks has helped oversee the development of several young stars including Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka in addition to working with Allen Iverson. Perhaps given the beginning of Detroit’s own quality youth movement, the Pistons are thinking Cheeks can be the coach to take the trio of Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond to the next level given his recent experience working with talented young players.
Whether that’s the case or not, don’t expect this hiring process to draw out well into the free agency period. Despite the fact that Dumars, Tom Gores and Jackson want a high degree of due diligence within this hire, Dumars admitted it would be ideal for the Pistons to have their next coach before free agency opens July 1 to help turn the team over. That places the possible timetable for a hire sometime in the middle of June in prior to the NBA Draft, which doesn’t seem to favor any particular candidate.
In the meantime, does Cheeks’ second interview indicate definite interest from the Pistons, or is the team simply doing its diligence and biding their time until they can begin more serious discussions with Shaw? We’ll likely know more detailed answers to both those questions in the very near future.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax