Ah, the life of an NBA coach. Toil in obscurity for several years, finally get a chance to live your dreams as a head coach at the highest level. Take over a moribund franchise that hadn’t been to the playoffs in the past five years. Build them into a winner. go to the playoffs for three straight years. Get fired. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
So it went for Mike Woodson.
But the pain of the newly unemployed coach could be the Pistons’ gain. Woodson was on the 2003-04 championship squad along with current head coach John Keuster. The Pistons are a mess, both offensively and defensively, and it might be a good time to get another defensive-minded voice that commands respect into the locker room.
But that begs the question: Was Mike Woodson even a good coach?
I admit I don’t follow the Atlanta Hawks with any authority, but from an outsiders perspective, I see a flawed roster that learned how to play “the right way” (oh, how those Larry Brown disciples love that phrase) and got a bunch of young players to buy into a winning philosophy, overachieved and coached well enough to advance to the second round each of the past two years.
Look at the Hawks’ defensive rating during Woodson’s tenure (rank in parentheses):
2004-05: 111.1 (29)
2005-06: 111.6 (27)
2006-07: 108.3 (23)
2007-08: 108.9 (18)
2008-09: 107.6 (12)
2009-10: 106.7 (13)
Ranking 13th might not sound good to fans used to the consistently top-5 ranked Pistons, but last season the team ranked just 26th. Kuester might have proved he’d be willing to sit players that gave lackluster effort on defense (see V., Charlie), but he has yet to show he can mold this motley crew into actual defensive stalwarts.
Of course, the drawback is that such a move could cause Keuster to begin looking over his shoulder, especially if he gets off to a rocky start. But, frankly, the Pistons can’t be charitable to Kuester at a time of an important transition and with a roster full of seemingly under-achievers.
Dumars signed Kuester with an eye toward recapturing some of the magic from 2003-04, and rehiring Woodson would be a welcome step foward, in my view, on the long road to rebuilding the Pistons into championship contenders.
*Image courtesy of Yardbarker