The Detroit Pistons lost their final game of the season to the Chicago Bulls. The team finished the 2022-23 season with a record of 17-65, its worst since the 1979-80 season.
Shortly after the game, Pistons head coach Dwane Casey announced he was stepping down and moving into a front office role with the team. Casey said the decision was his own to make.
“Tom (Gores) is giving me an opportunity to move into the front office,” he said. “I’m excited to go to the next phase of my life. Time to spend more time with my family. This team is on the right track. They probably need to hear a new voice. This is my decision.”
Casey arrived in Detroit after winning the 2018 Coach of the Year award with the Toronto Raptors. Aided by an All-NBA season by star Blake Griffin, the Pistons made the playoffs in Casey’s first season at the helm.
In the seasons to follow, the Pistons’ win totals have steadily fallen. Griffin regressed, and the team began shipping away its core players. In the 2020 offseason, GM Troy Weaver arrived in the Motor City and began a complete rebuild with the team starting from scratch.
Detroit expected to take a step forward this season, but an injury to Cade Cunningham quickly derailed the campaign. Cunningham was limited to just 12 games due to a stress fracture in his shin. It is hard to place the entirety of the blame for the team’s struggles this season on Casey. The team dealt with numerous injuries. The Pistons boast one of the league’s youngest roster, but that inexperience showed its face throughout the season.
Troy Weaver can go get his guy for the Detroit Pistons coach opening
Some will place the blame on Casey. He overstayed his welcome in the eyes of many fans. That sentiment does not appear to be shared by the organization, at least not completely. However, Casey is right. The team is ready for a new voice in the locker room.
Weaver inherited Casey when he came to Detroit. The GM clearly was not in a hurry to drop the veteran coach as he extended Casey. With Casey stepping down, Weaver has the opportunity to go find his guy man the ship.
Milwaukee Bucks’ assistant Charles Lee and Atlanta Hawks’ assistant Adrian Griffin are two names rumored to be on Detroit’s radar. Lee is viewed as one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the NBA. Griffin has ties to Weaver dating back to their days with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Former Piston Jerry Stackhouse is another name that has been thrown out there as a potential coaching candidate. Stackhouse is currently the head coach at Vanderbilt University. He was named co-SEC Coach of the Year this past season.
If current Raptors head coach Nick Nurse becomes available, he will quickly be the best candidate on the market. It is hard to imagine Weaver not making a call to bring Nurse in for an interview.
Of course, the big fish right now is former Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka. In his lone season as a head coach, Udoka led the Celtics to a 51-31 record and an appearance in the 2022 NBA Finals.
The Celtics suspended Udoka for the 2022-23 season citing a violation of team rules. The suspension came due to Udoka’s involvement in an inappropriate relationship with a female team staff member. In mid-February, the Celtics promoted interim-head coach Joe Mazzulla, officially replacing Udoka.
Is Ime Udoka worth the risk for the Detroit Pistons?
Udoka is certainly one of the best coaching candidates on the market. However, he comes with plenty of baggage. Throughout his tenure with the Pistons, Weaver has emphasized a desire to bring in high-character players and personnel.
There is no question Weaver will do some digging on the entire situation between Udoka and Boston. Detroit’s GM will leave no stone unturned in his research into Udoka. If Udoka clears and makes a good impression during the interview process, there is no doubt Weaver will throw him a contract offer.
It would be interesting to see how Udoka works with this young Pistons team. He would have plenty of talent to work with and develop. Cunningham and Jaden Ivey are potential stars. Bojan Bogdanovic is a reliable veteran scorer. The team has a top-five draft pick this offseason and ample cap space. Udoka could really mold this team into a competitor.
Udoka’s potential to unlock Detroit’s big man group is especially enticing. In Boston, Udoka built a dominant defense with bigs Al Horford and Robert Williams playing important roles. Horford played as the rim protector while Williams played as a roamer. It would be interesting to see Udoka utilize this same style of defense with Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren.
Udoka is not the first person to make a poor life decision. Weaver’s task in analyzing the situation with Boston is to determine if Udoka’s transgressions were an isolated incident, or if he believes more could follow. If it is isolated, the Pistons have a high-end head coach for potentially the next decade. If it is not, Detroit could quickly find itself in the market for a new head coach again.
Signing Udoka brings risk. Weaver and the Detroit Pistons front office have to determine if he is worth that risk.
Featured Image Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports