“There’s No Room for Sacred Cows when You’re Losing Like This.”
— Joe Dumars, 6/10/2008
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — So the Pistons decided to put an end to the one-year farce that was Michael Curry being their head coach yesterday in a move that was only surprising in the fact that it wasn’t done sooner (like mid-season). Truthfully, Michael Curry had no business being head coach in the first place. Curry inexplicably turned mediocre (at best) skills into an 11-year NBA career, with a majority of them spent wearing a Pistons uniform. He averaged 4.5 points per game for his career! I recall seeing him score 15 in a game twice (Games 1 and 5 of the 2002 Eastern Conference Semis v. Boston). He was always well liked for his “Leadership” and defensive qualities and was even president of the NBA Player’s Association. All that stuff is fine and dandy, but let’s call a spade a spade, if this dude weren’t good buddies with Joe Dumars, he never gets a sniff of this gig. Dumars and Curry were teammates, and Joe has openly talked about how he loved how Curry was a “take charge” kind of guy from the first time he showed up on a 10-day contact in 1996.
Rewind the clock back to just over a year ago. The Pistons had just gagged in the Eastern Conference Finals against eventual champion Boston. Flip Saunders was on the hot seat for having lost the team, and was quickly fired. Curry, who last played for the Pistons in 2003, was suddenly hired as an assistant prior to the start of the 2008 season despite never having been as much as an assistant coach at ANY LEVEL. When Flip was fired, Joe was dead set on one man being his head coach, and that was Curry. When he was introduced to an incredulous fanbase at the press conference last year, Curry arrogantly replied to questions about his experience by saying “I should’ve gotten the job sooner.” From that point on, I knew this dude was in trouble. Michael Curry was in over his head more than a toddler in a 12-foot pool.
Now there are those who will say that Curry was placed into the brutal position of having to coach a team that would have their fragile chemistry shattered with the trade of All-Star Point Guard Chauncey Billups for renown locker room cancer Allen Iverson. Plus, he had to deal with the always combustible Rasheed Wallace. However, from the word Go those players did not respect Michael Curry. I had an interesting view of this season because I was interning at a local television station’s sports department. You’d be amazed at the access you get! During the Pistons games we covered, we would be seated right behind the Pistons’ bench. Aside from being unbelievable seats, you can basically see and hear everything that goes on during the game, and more importantly during timeouts and pre-game. For those of you “fans” who think you know every damn thing, you didn’t see what I saw.
During timeouts in 2004, for example, Larry Brown had that entire squad engaged and dialed into what he was saying, whether they liked him or not, they respected his authority. Michael Curry on the other hand…well, the best way to describe a Micheal Curry timeout is like this: He might as well have been talking to himself.
During a February game at the Palace against the Bucks, the only guys who were even listening to Curry were Arron Afflalo, Jason Maxiell, Will Bynum, and Amir Johnson. None of those dudes were on the floor coming out of the TO. Rasheed was standing at the scorer’s table. Iverson was sitting at the end of the bench. Rip, Tayshaun, and Antonio McDyess were laughing it up away from the “huddle”…it was a mess!
It didn’t help that Curry was pretty damn arrogant. He would carry around a sense of entitlement, like he knew since he was Joe’s “friend”, that he was untouchable. He needed to understand two things. First, Joe had already kicked this dude to the curb once before. Apparently Mike forgot that! Curry became expendible as a player the second Tayshaun shut down T-Mac in round one of the 2003 Playoffs. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Prince in Game 2 of the Conference Finals that year, and was gone a couple of weeks later. Secondly, and most importantly, He’s Micheal FREAKING Curry for God’s sake! Larry Brown won a title with this team, and damn near got a second, but he crossed the boss (the late Bill Davidson) and got iced! Did Michael Curry really think he was the teflon don of Auburn Hills!? Unless your name ends in Jackson or Riley, you can be touched!
Venerable Detroit News beat writer Chris McCosky summed up Curry’s attitude like this: “He came off as unbending to his staff, often either not asking for or reacting to their input. He came into his first training camp with a system and style he refused to modify, even when it was clear it wasn’t working,“ McCosky said in today’s Detroit News. “Curry also refused to incorporate a zone defense despite the urging of his staff. Finally, after three months of getting beaten on dribble penetration, Curry installed a zone.“
No where was this attitude issue more evident than in the handling of Rip Hamilton. Rip and Curry were beefing from the moment he was benched in favor of the erstwhile Iverson. The benching would’ve been easier to swallow if Curry had come to him like a man and told him privately before going public with it. The two would openly clash during games, with Hamilton once questioning Curry’s coaching ability based on his subpar playing career.
Even after that trainwreck of a season ended, Curry and Rip still hadn’t spoken to each other. Those bridges had basically been drenched in kerosene and strapped with C-4. However, with the possibility of Hamilton being a Piston next year, and Curry’s job seemingly being safe, someone had to be a grown-up and squash the beef. Apparently, that grown-up was not going to be Curry. When asked by Free Press columnist Drew Sharp about the squashing the beef, Curry basically said he was going to wait until later in the summer, essentially hoping that Dumars would take care of the problem for him by getting rid of Rip.
However, Joe had already told Curry to address the problem after the season ended, and with free agency looming and players known to talk to their homies on other teams (Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva are both former UConn players and friends of Rip Hamilton), the writing was on the wall and Curry couldn’t seem to translate it. He got the ziggy and is onto the coaching scrap heap…hey, I think I see George Irvine and Ron Rothstein down there! As for Joe Dumars, he is in a no-win situation. Many feel he put Curry in a position that he couldn’t have succeeded in if you gave him 90 days notice and a crystal ball. Others, such as myself, feel that Curry never should’ve been hired in the first damn place. So the Pistons are back to square one. They are entering a new phase heading into this century’s second decade, and Lord knows what that means.
Joe Dumars has a lot of ill-informed “fans” who claim that the title from five years ago was “luck” or a “fluke”, as if you can “fluke” your way to 16 wins (Orlando proved you can fluke your way to the Finals, but not to the title). He has butchered a lot of draft picks (Darko instead of Chris Bosh and Mateen over Mo Pete immediately spring to mind), and made one horrific trade, Chauncey for Iverson, that almost completely negated the incredible trade that won him a title, Rasheed & Mike James for Chucky Atkins, Bobby Sura and a bag of athletic tape. He better have a master plan and one more huge rabbit to pull out of his hat, or the only thing the Pistons will be missing are the Teal Uniforms and Eric Montross.
Thank You For Your Time. Take Care, God Bless, Always Dare To Be Different, and G.O.M.A.B!
Until Next Time, That’s Just The Way It Is…