Thursday, Detroit fired Lawrence Frank, and will now have to hire its 12th coach in the 21 years since Chuck Daly’s departure. Flip Saunders, who coached three seasons, has the longest tenure in the last two decades.
“We thank Lawrence for his hard work and dedication, but we feel it is in the best interest of the franchise to make a change at this time,” Pistons team president Joe Dumars said in a statement. “Decisions like this are never easy and we wish Lawrence well in the future.”
Frank’s departure was no surprise, given his 54-94 (.365) record over two seasons, but the timeline may have been hastened in the last week. Frank reportedly told Dumars and team owner Tom Gores that he wanted the fourth year of his contract (2014-15) guaranteed, because he didn’t want to coach next season as a lame duck.
That was never likely to fly with Gores, who said a year ago that he expected the Pistons to make the playoffs this year, only to see them go 29-53 and miss the postseason by nine games.
In addition, the Pistons struggled to fill the Palace as the team went from mid-February to early April without winning a home game. During that streak, Detroit posted a 1-13 record in March that included three losses by more than 30 points.
Frank left the team for several games in March to be with his wife, who was suffering significant health problems. At the time, he said she faces a long recovery, which could have played a role in his choice to push for a quick decision on his future.
Nate McMillan and Mike Brown are former NBA coaches who could replace Frank, while it seems less likely that Jerry Sloan or the Van Gundy brothers would be interested in taking over a young, rebuilding roster. Much will depend on who is making the decision — Gores said earlier this week that he was assessing Dumars’ performance as well as Frank’s.
With a high draft pick and a great deal of cap space, Gores will also have to decide how much power the new coach will have over shaping his roster. Will he get input into decisions made by Dumars? Will be he working alongside a new general manager? Or might Gores try to entice a bigger coaching name by offering him both jobs?
As a fairly new owner, Gores is entering uncharted territory. Pistons fans will learn a lot about his way of doing business by how he handles the next few weeks and months.