AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) Hours before John Loyer made his debut as Detroit’s interim coach, Chauncey Billups offered a preview.
”He’s always very energetic at all times,” Billups said. ”I don’t know what we’re going to do in second halves because he won’t have a voice. He always loses his voice in the first half.”
Billups’ assessment was spot on, at least through one game. Loyer coached the Pistons to a 109-100 win over San Antonio on Monday, yelling out instructions in a raspy voice from the sideline on a night his team led comfortably for the entire second half.
It was an immediate contrast to the mild-mannered Maurice Cheeks, the coach the Pistons fired a day earlier.
Of course, sideline demeanors can be deceiving – and Loyer was careful not to take too much credit for the team’s sharp performance against the Spurs.
”It’s not about me,” he said. ”I’m just glad our guys played hard.”
Loyer was in his third season as an assistant for the Pistons when he was abruptly promoted after Cheeks’ dismissal. He was a holdover from Lawrence Frank’s staff, remaining in the fold after Cheeks was hired last offseason.
Loyer has also been an assistant for the New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers.
The Pistons scored 26 points off turnovers against San Antonio and led by as many as 23.
”Certain events happened that are beyond our control, but we were able to come out and focus on playing basketball,” forward Josh Smith said. ”We came out with a big win against a great team.”
Loyer takes over the Pistons at a time when patience is growing thin. Detroit signed Smith and traded for Brandon Jennings in the offseason, but the results have been mixed at best.
Even after beating San Antonio, the Pistons are 22-29. They were tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference entering Tuesday night.
Detroit had won four of six when Cheeks was let go, so it’s hard to tell if the win Monday could be attributed at all to the coaching change. Jennings played well for Loyer – just as he did in the last couple games under Cheeks.
”The last four out of six, we’ve still been playing the same way,” Jennings said after the win over San Antonio. ”We’re just trying to keep it going.”
Cheeks, a former point guard, was given the task of mentoring Jennings, but Jennings says he can still look to Billups for veteran guidance. Jennings’ performance down the stretch may make or break Detroit’s playoff chances.
Jennings made a point of saying that Cheeks was like a father figure to him, but he hopes to stay in the offensive groove he’s found over the past few games.
”I’m back to having fun, instead of just taking everything so personally and thinking about too much,” Jennings said. ”I’m just hooping.”
Detroit hosts Cleveland on Wednesday, then plays a home-and-home with Charlotte – another team in the mix for the postseason in the East. So the Pistons will have a chance to build on their recent success and create some positive vibes right away for their new coach.
”Change for change’s sake doesn’t do much,” Loyer said. ”Anybody can change. We need positive change, and I thought our guys came out and had great effort (Monday night), great determination. You try to set a little bit of a tone every day. Thankfully, our guys, they set the tone.”