by | Feb 25, 2009 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

He wore a gray-striped suit with the stripes going both directions, a white dress shirt and a stylish print tie. Still, when they called his name, the crowd barely noticed, because the music was blasting and fire was shooting and the fans were busy watching the players do their jump-and-slam moves.

But make no mistake. This Pistons opener was about one man more than the rest. Those long pants have been a long time coming.

Michael Curry is on the board.

The guy who went undrafted in this league, who began his professional career in Germany, who played, at one point, for both teams on the floor Wednesday night (and who was also let go by both of them), the man who saw six teams in 11 years, who once led the players union, who did a stint as a league executive, and who sat on the bench behind Flip Saunders last year, finally, finally, has his name at the top of a category.

Head coach.

“You’re 1-0,” he was asked after the Pistons’ 100-94 victory over Indiana. “What does that mean to you?”

“Right now, not much, to be honest,” he said. “I think things you do and accomplish through your career, you sit back and look at it when it’s all over.”

Well, that’s a long way off. Splitting up the minutes

It was an interesting night. Curry has been saying that he plans to play a lot of guys a lot of minutes. He didn’t wait long to prove it. By the start of the second quarter, the lineup was Jason Maxiell, Antonio McDyess, Rodney Stuckey, Arron Afflalo and the tireless Walter Herrmann, whose intense expression, when he runs, suggests a man being chased by a wolf.

Those five stayed out here for a long while. Chauncey Billups, meanwhile, sat for about seven straight minutes. Rip Hamilton sat for 8 1/2 , Rasheed Wallace for nearly 9 1/2 . By halftime, 11 players had seen action, none less than three minutes.

Sure, at crunch time, the fourth quarter, it was the same old guys. But still, you watch the bench players and you understand, perhaps, why Joe Dumars wants to roll the dice on this roster. On good nights, they can look pretty deep now, with Afflalo and Stuckey looking more and more like a real backcourt and Kwame Brown, a former No. 1 draft pick, now a third big man option off the bench.

“We want to make sure we give guys a chance to see if this could be their night,” Curry said.

Two Pistons grabbed that ring. Young Amir Johnson, the new starter, made a number of hustle plays, blocking three shots, making a steal, slicing for rebounds in traffic.

And Herrmann, he of the streaked-hair ponytail? Well – there were more dropped jaws at his production than I think I’ve ever seen for a 10-point performance.

“He’s a very capable player in this league,” Curry said.

This IS a new season. The job of his destiny

Curry, only 40, doesn’t have a lot of bench experience. Heck, he has none as a head coach. He was never an All-Star player. He was a journeyman as defined by his jersey collection.

Yet it is hard to find anyone who doesn’t think he’ll do a great job. From his boss, Dumars, to his owner, Bill Davidson, to former Pistons like Jerry Stackhouse, who told the AP “it was just a matter of time” before Curry had the whistle, to current Pistons like Tayshaun Prince, who used to sit and kid with Curry when he was a player, but always saw his leadership skills.

“Yeah, we used to joke around,” Prince said earlier this week, “but what he’s done since training camp … we’re clear he’s the head coach.”

And so he is, with one victory under his belt. Curry is humble and focused, and he would not be baited into steering the spotlight on himself.

“I was reading an article about stuff I did with the union,” he said. “I never really sat back and thought about the good things I did … but when I read it yesterday, it was the first time. …

“That’s sort of how I am as a person. … Maybe one day I’ll sit back and see how good or how bad I really did.”

Well, the start will always be memorable. A nice suit. A perfect record. It’s been a long time coming for Michael Curry, yet it seems as if it was coming for a long time.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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