Pistons’ Firing of Maurice Cheeks: Abrupt and Tough
The Detroit Pistons announced on Sunday that head coach Maurice Cheeks had been fired — just 50 games into this season. Cheeks, who had previously coached in the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers from 2001-2005 and Philadelphia 76ers from 2005-2008, was in his inaugural season at Detroit.
In a statement released by the team, Pistons President Joe Dumars said, “This was a difficult decision for the organization to make, but we needed to make a change.” Coincidentally, the firing came after the Pistons had won four of six games and seemed to be on a winning track, albeit in a very top-heavy, weak Eastern Conference. Despite the season being a little more than half over, Detroit’s 22-29 record currently sits tied for eighth place in the conference and borders on a playoff spot. That wasn’t enough for Cheeks to stay, though.
Dumars referenced the need to make a change, and this further explains the sudden firing. It wasn’t strictly based on results, but how Cheeks was managing the team and its players. Starting in January, Cheeks seemed to lose a handle on the Pistons’ locker room, most notably when he benched Josh Smith.
Smith, an All-Star forward, signed a four-year $54 million contract this offseason with Detroit, and was expected to be a cornerstone for the young but talented Pistons. While the Smith benching and the forward’s ensuing response was just one incident, it sent a strong message to the front office that Cheeks might not have been the right guy for the job — a message that was reaffirmed this weekend.