Wednesday, July 8, 2009 Pistons hire Cavaliers' John Kuester as coach
Chris McCosky / The Detroit News
Las Vegas -- It's starting to feel like the summer of 2001 all over again.
The Pistons on Tuesday passed on hiring Avery Johnson as their next head coach. Instead, Pistons president Joe Dumars decided on former Pistons and current Cleveland Cavaliers assistant John Kuester.
Kuester and Dumars agreed late Tuesday night on a two-year contract with a team option for a third worth $1.5 million a year.
Kuester was an assistant under Larry Brown during the Pistons' championship season of 2003-04.
Dumars last hired an experienced, high-profile assistant coach in 2001 when he gave Rick Carlisle his first head coaching job.
"Where we are as a team right now is where we were at the start of Rick Carlisle's era here," Dumars said. "We are in the same sort of transition mode. A $4 million to $5 million coach is not what we need right now."
It would have cost the Pistons a lot more to hire Johnson. He's still owed $8 million over the next two years from the Dallas Mavericks, was looking not only for a contract that would pay him at least $4 million on average, but also was looking for long-term security in the form of a four-year guarantee.
Dumars didn't want to sign him to anything longer than three years.
"We didn't hire a $4 million-a-year coach until we were ready to win a championship," Dumars said, referring to Larry Brown, who replaced Carlisle in 2004. "But it's not just about that. Our team right now, with the influx of younger players that we have, we just feel like we want to go in a different direction with our coach."
Johnson, on ESPN SportsCenter Tuesday, said, "I looked at it, I was interested in it, but I was only interested in it if we could agree on a vision for the team going forward."
Dumars said he would consider both Kuester and Tom Thibodeau, Doc Rivers' lead assistant in Boston. But Kuester was clearly Dumars' first choice between those two. He has a history with him, respects that he's a disciple of Larry Brown and that he's considered more of an offensive-minded coach than Thibodeau.
With commitments from free agents Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, plus drafting three offensively skilled forwards -- Austin Daye, DaJuan Summers and Jonas Jerebko -- Dumars is building a more offensive-oriented team.
With the way the NBA has legislated against clutch-and-grab defense over the last five seasons, and with scoring steadily rising toward triple-digits, even in the postseason, Dumars couldn't rightly justify building a defensive-oriented team like the one he built starting in 2001.
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown used Kuester very prominently as his offensive coordinator last season. He allowed Kuester to devise the offensive game plan and to run the huddles in certain situations, even deep in the playoffs.
The deal could be finalized as early as today.
The Pistons added Michigan State power forward Marquise Gray to their summer league roster. He replaces Matt Freije .
The Pistons might also not have the services of Jerebko right away. He's one of seven players on the summer roster that played overseas last season, thus needed to get clearance from FIBA.
Jerebko is the only player still waiting for clearance, and Pistons director of player personnel George David said he was hopeful Jerebko would only miss a game or two. firstname.lastname@example.org
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