When I heard that Maurice Cheeks had landed another job as a head coach in the NBA, my instant reaction, quite honestly, was:
"HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!" Followed by, "HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!"
Yes, really. This time it was the Detroit Pistons who were casual or naive enough in their job search to hire the man whom I consider, hands down, to be the worst coach in Trail Blazer history and probably one of the worst I've ever seen in the NBA. And while it's possible that no quality coach would accept that Detroit job, the Pistons could have done so much better. What's wrong with Cheeks, you say?
Well, I've covered the NBA since the days when Jack Ramsay was roaming the Blazer sidelines in paisley pants. And I don't think since that time I've seen a coach as poorly informed, as casual about his duties and as lazy as Cheeks. NBA head coach? He should have been charged with identity theft. This is a guy who... :
- ... sometimes within an hour of game time couldn't tell you the starting lineup of the team he'd be facing on a given night.
- ... after a game one night famously (I used to play the tape of this on my radio show) needed prompting to understand how standings worked -- you know that complicated thing where if two teams have the same number of wins but one team has fewer losses? Yeah, there was a problem with that.
- ... didn't listen to assistant coaches who knew way more about the game than he did.
- ... spent a large portion of the game yukking it up with fans behind the bench rather than paying attention to the game.
- ... got outcoached on a nightly basis, especially at the defensive end.
- ... absolutely kept his job in Portland because he helped a young girl get through a national anthem performance. Insiders told me Cheeks was on the chopping block but turned public opinion so much with his assist to the struggling singer the team didn't feel it could fire him.
Cheeks is one of those guys who used to give NBA critics all the reason in the world to perpetuate that old cliche about, "There's no coaching in the NBA. They just throw the balls out and let the players play." Cheeks did that and when his players were good enough, he won games. But today's NBA is headed the other direction in a hurry. The teams in this year's NBA Finals are extremely well coached and so were a lot of teams that had successful playoff runs.
The Pistons have some solid young players as a core group and are in rebuilding mode. There's a chance this franchise is on the upswing. Maybe Cheeks, in his tenure as an assistant at Oklahoma City, has learned some lessons. We shall see.
So good luck, Detroit. I'll be watching. And trying to keep from giggling.