Pistons fire coach John Kuester

John Kuester juggled his lineup, benched veterans and tried

seemingly every combination he could think of to shake the Detroit

Pistons out of their funk.

When none of it worked, he lost his job.

The Pistons fired their embattled coach Sunday, four days after

new owner Tom Gores completed an agreement to buy the team from

Karen Davidson. Kuester was 57-107 over two seasons with Detroit,

which failed to make the postseason in consecutive years for the

first time since missing the playoffs three straight times from

1993-95. This past season was a dreary one, with the proud

franchise making more news for internal squabbling than any

on-court accomplishments.

”Decisions like this are difficult to make,” team president

Joe Dumars said. ”I want to thank John for his hard work and

dedication to the organization over the last two years, however, at

this time we have decided to make a change.”

Detroit won its third championship in 2004, part of a six-year

streak in which the team reached at least the conference finals,

but the Pistons went 27-55 in 2009-10 and 30-52 last season.

Empty seats were common at home games, and that, coupled with

feuding between coaches and players, added to a sense of gloom.

Kuester didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.

Kuester was hired in 2009 after two seasons as an assistant with

Cleveland. He was also a member of Larry Brown’s

championship-winning staff in 2004 with the Pistons, but his

familiarity with at least some of the Detroit players was of little

help as the team began to look increasingly dysfunctional.

Richard Hamilton and Kuester had a falling out that sent the

veteran to the bench for most of a seven-week stretch. The two

appeared to be on better terms toward the end of last season, but

there was plenty of other drama.

Every healthy player started at least one game in 2010-11, and

all except Ben Gordon received at least one DNP-Coach’s Decision.

Kuester benched point guard Rodney Stuckey barely a week into the

season and benched him again with just over a week to go when there

was friction between the two.

The low point was probably Feb. 25 in Philadelphia. Seven

players missed at least part of a team shootaround, and Kuester

played only the remaining six that night in a blowout loss to the

76ers.

Detroit actually improved by three games from Kuester’s first

season, but that wasn’t enough to save his job. His firing appeared

certain, and it happened quickly after Gores officially took

control.

For much of the season, the team seemed in limbo because of a

drawn-out sale by Davidson. The Pistons finally announced in April

that Gores was going to take over, but the deal didn’t become final

until Wednesday.

Dumars said his hands were tied during the transition period.

Now, the rebuilding process can begin in earnest, and finding a new

coach will be an important step.

”At this time, we do not have a timetable for hiring a

successor,” Dumars said.

The Pistons will try to make the most of the next few weeks.

They have the eighth pick in the June 23 draft, which is only a

week before the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement is set to

expire.

The new coach could take over a significantly different roster.

Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace are the last links to the

2004 title team, and all could be gone by the time the Pistons suit

up again.

The Pistons were unable to trade Hamilton, who is under contract

for two more seasons, although it is possible he could be dealt

before next season. Prince is a free agent, and Wallace has

considered retirement.

Amid all that, there have been some bright spots. Rookie Greg

Monroe established himself as a solid young big man, averaging 9.4

points and 7.5 rebounds. Austin Daye, who shot 40 percent from

3-point range in his second season, appears to be another part of

the team’s future.

Gores said Thursday that Dumars is still the team’s point man

for basketball matters, and although the Pistons were noncommittal

about Kuester that night, it was obvious that changes were coming

in some form.

”I think that we really do have to re-establish the culture

here,” Dumars said that night. ”I think that’s the main thing –

is to just kind of re-claim the culture back that was established

here for a long time.”