It didn’t take Tom Gores long to get his feet wet as the new owner of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons as he sent the club’s coach John Kuester packing just four days after taking over the franchise. Many fans saw it coming since Kuester seemed to be playing with fire this season by constantly juggling his lineup and benching veteran players throughout the season. However, there was a method to his madness as he was simply trying to spark the squad.
Kuester was let go on June 5th, after leading his charges to a miserable 57-107 record over the past two seasons and missing the basketball playoffs both years, which was the first time the club has been silent in the postseason since sitting on the sidelines between 1993 and 95. Kuester kept the team in the headlines this season though, but for all the wrong reasons.
The Pistons were usually in the news because of their internal squabbling and the general dislike of the coach by the players. The Pistons’ president Joe Dumars thanked Kuester for his commitment to the organization over the past two years, but said it was time to head in a new direction after going 30 and 52 last season and 27-55 the year before.
Not only was Kuester getting on the nerves of the players, but he was agitating the fans as well and they showed their displeasure with the team by staying showing up to the games disguised as empty seats.
Kuester joined the Pistons as head coach in 2009 following a two-year stint as an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, he was a part of the Detroit family back in 2004 as an assistant when they won the NBA title. But his familiarity with the club and some of the players didn’t help him when he took over the head coaching reins.
Kuester had a “my way or the highway” mentality and it was showcased when he benched veteran Richard Hamilton for close to two months midway through the season. He also sat point guard Rodney Stuckey right after the season started and then again as the schedule was winding down.
Things came to a head between the players and coach in Philadelphia on Feb. 25 when seven members of the squad missed the team’s shootaround. Kuester tried to show them who was boss by playing just the other six players that night and it backfired as the 76ers blew them out of the water.
But for all of the bickering last season, the Pistons actually improved by three games from the year before. However, it was nowhere near enough to save his skin and his dismissal became official shortly after Gores took over the driver’s seat.
It took Gores several months to legally take over the NBA franchise, but now that he has, Dumars will be busy looking for a new coach while the team tries to rebuild. Detroit also has the eighth overall selection in the draft on June 23, which takes place just a week before the current collective bargaining agreement with the league expires.