Things change. Sometimes this is true in a slow way and sometimes true in a fast way, and right now in Pistons Land it’s true in an avalanche way, and Michael Curry just got buried underneath it.
“The fact is, we’re going through this transition right now,” Joe Dumars told me Tuesday afternoon, shortly after letting his coach go, “and I think it’s imperative we have someone who has more experience to help guide us through.”
Curry was not that guy.
He was not that guy when hired last year.
But last year pieces weren’t moving on the Pistons’ board faster than the props on a “Saturday Night Live” set. By the time you read this, the franchise may have lassoed a high-priced free agent like Ben Gordon or Charlie Villanueva (or maybe both). It already has unofficially parted company with Rasheed Wallace and Allen Iverson and maybe Antonio McDyess. It drafted three forwards last week, all of whom are expected to make the team.
In Dumars’ eyes, that much change at the player level requires more experience at the coaching level. Curry didn’t have it. And that was not just Dumars’ view. There was grumbling around the Pistons’ locker room that Curry was not ready for Prime Time, and although the front office might have believed the 40-year-old former player eventually could get there, the luxury of time is gone.
Things change. Suddenly Curry’s job requirements were different
“Absolutely,” Dumars said, when I asked if he had to take responsibility for miscalculating the Curry hire. “I think I probably put too much on him as a first-year head coach. I don’t expect anything less than for me to have to take responsibility for that.”
But as is well known by now, the one thing Dumars takes as fast as he does responsibility is action.
And so, boom, out goes Curry, a former Piston who was green in the coaching world but who most everyone thought would be able to step right in.
“Given his strong knowledge of the game and tireless work ethic, we feel he is the right person to lead our team,” Dumars said upon Curry’s hire. “Michael understands the culture of our franchise.”
If so, he has to understand that culture has changed fast. Remember, when Curry was hired last June it was to squeeze more production out of a solid, familiar unit: Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed. Curry didn’t have to mold or teach them, just inspire them.
But a few games into the season, everything changed. Billups was traded for Iverson. Suddenly, managing egos and a new superstar were atop Curry’s list. Not his strengths.
And with the roster upended, young faces and new faces coming in, the job requirements don’t look much like the ones Curry was hired for. Two words for whoever’s next: Experience preferred
I have less of a problem with the Pistons’ firing Curry than I did with them hiring him. It always seemed a risk. But in the NBA, the new coach is usually a reaction to the old one. Curry, involved and passionate, followed Flip Saunders, who seemed too flat and distant. Saunders followed Larry Brown, who seemed too volatile and emotional. Brown followed Rick Carlisle, who seemed too removed.
Now Curry, too inexperienced, will be followed by someone with more credits on his resume. Names like Avery Johnson and Doug Collins are being tossed about. But Dumars has no reason to speed into a new hire, not until he sees what his roster is.
Which is where his efforts will be focused right now. Make no mistake, this is Dumars’ team no matter who coaches or dunks for it. That is even more true now with Bill Davidson gone.
I give Joe credit for taking responsibility for Curry’s hiring and firing -“I misjudged what he would be able to do as a first-year head coach”- and for ignoring sentimentality or traditional time frames in favor of putting the right pieces together.
But no matter whom he signs – player or coach – Dumars is under the lamp now, and the team’s success or failure rests mostly in his decisions.
Things change. Then again, the Pistons had a losing record and were ousted in the first round.
Aren’t they supposed to change?
Contact MITCH ALBOM: 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org.