Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News wrote:
The Pistons appear poised to make Maurice Cheeks their next head coach, in the effort to end the revolving door at that spot.
Cheeks and the Pistons have been engaged in negotiations in recent days, as multiple sources expressed optimism this saga, that began with the team firing Lawrence Frank at season’s end and wound up with the Pistons going through the complicated process of interviewing multiple candidates, has reached its end.
The Pistons hope to get a deal done before the end of weekend. Frank being due to receive nearly $4 million next season — the last guaranteed year of his contract — along with a portion of his fourth year could complicate matters as far as Cheeks’ contract length and amount.
Currently an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Cheeks has helped with the development of guards Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson and former Thunder guard Eric Maynor, who was traded to Portland this season. It’s a background the Pistons liked, especially since they’re still figuring out what they have in 2011 first-round pick Brandon Knight and they hope Cheeks could be a good mentor for him.
It’s expected his calm demeanor, presence and consistency will be welcome for a franchise in desperate need of it, as he likely sold Pistons President Joe Dumars and owner Tom Gores on, at the very least, not losing the locker room.
Frank was fired after two seasons, mostly due to a bevy of lopsided losses at mid-season, making it appear obvious he didn’t have the attention of the roster.
Cheeks’ consistency probably outweighed his tangible resume, as his career record doesn’t jump out at anyone (284-286 in nine seasons in Portland and Philadelphia), but he’s highly regarded around the league, especially in Oklahoma City.
Cheeks’ reputation didn’t suffer from coaching the infamous Portland “Jailblazers” that featured a young Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudamire, Bonzi Wells and Zach Randolph that found itself on the police blotter as much as the sports pages.
Cheeks and Nate McMillan both met with the Pistons three times, including with Gores in Los Angeles. McMillan’s name was thrown about for the now-open Denver Nuggets job, making it appear Cheeks won out over the former Trail Blazers and Seattle Sonics coach.
That opening brings the number of coaching changes to 12 from the end of the regular season as many teams, including six playoff clubs, are looking for change in the first seat.
Cheeks, 56, played 15 years in the NBA but doesn’t come across as the sexy hire, especially given the expectation from those around the league that Gores would want the flashy choice.
Bringing in Phil Jackson as a consultant, to the surprise of many, didn’t change the perception.
“He’s a safe hire, a good coach,” an executive texted. “He needs better players.”
Cheeks will have the opportunity to coach better players, if the Pistons play their cards right this summer. With more than $20 million to spend in free agency and the trade market, there’s a huge chance to see an upgrade in talent before training camp.
Also, with the Pistons having Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond manning the front line and promising forwards Kyle Singler and Khris Middleton likely being brought back, most of the other players could find themselves on notice when one considers Gores’ rhetoric before the final home game.