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Joe Dumars Failed With A Nearly Impossible Mandate in Detroit

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The Pistons are parting ways with Joe Dumars. A quick run down of their recent seasons will show why that’s not so surprising.

Since losing to Boston in the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals, Detroit has had six-straight losing seasons and five-straight seasons of 30 wins or fewer. Maurice Cheeks, fired mid-season, was the Pistons’ fourth head coach dismissed over that span. The common thread was Dumars. It is clearly time for a change.

Dumars deserves a lot of the flack for what the Pistons have become. But it’s not entirely his fault. External factors played a pivotal role.

Detroit is not a glamour destination. LeBron is not signing there. Cap room offers the team an opportunity to overpay for someone no one else wants (See: Smith, Josh). Star players, a requisite for pretty much every title winning team except the fortunate 2004 Pistons, must come through the draft. The ideal strategy would have been to tank. Dumars never had that luxury.

His first major opportunity to reshape the team was in 2009. Longtime owner Bill Davidson died in March that year, precipitating an inevitable sale of the team. It was tough for the Pistons to find a buyer anyway in Detroit, despite leading the league in attendance six of the previous seven years. The last thing they could do was bottom out and not use their cap room. That led, in a lean talent year before the 2010 crowd, to Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, mediocre signings that went poorly.

The second major opportunity was last summer. Again. What were Dumars’ options? The Pistons had a new owner looking to make a splash and reverse a horrific attendance decline from 1st in 2009 to 28th in 2012 and 2013. Tanking and building for the long-term around the young big men was not an option. The owner himself said as much. Dumars, thus, added Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings.

Dumars wasn’t perfect. He could get sucked in by pre-draft workouts. He made moves that hindered the team in the short and long-term. But they were also moves that had to be made. He hasn’t succeeded in Detroit since 2008. But, it’s not clear anyone could have given the constraints.

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[USA Today Sports]

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