Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

June 11, 2013

Thunder assistant takes Detroit job

DETROIT — Maurice Cheeks is getting a third shot to be an NBA head coach.

The Detroit Pistons are desperately hoping he makes the most of the opportunity he was given Monday, when they announced the hiring and did not disclose the length of his deal.

Cheeks was 284-286 in the regular season and 5-11 during three postseasons while leading the Portland Trail Blazers and Philadelphia 76ers, a team he helped win an NBA title as a point guard.

"After spending some time with Maurice, I was very impressed not only with his basketball knowledge but his communication and leadership skills," Pistons owner Tom Gores said in a statement. "We are very excited to have someone of his experience and talent help take this franchise into the future."

Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson helped his friend, Gores, during the search as a consultant.

"The leadership and player development qualities he brings as a former player and coach blends nicely with the roster we are building for the future," Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars said in a statement. "He's won an NBA championship, coached in two NBA Finals as an assistant coach and mentored some of the top young players in the NBA."

Detroit has been looking for a new coach since it fired Lawrence Frank in April, a day after finishing 29-53. Frank was 54-94 in two seasons with the Pistons.

Cheeks becomes the franchise's fourth coach in six seasons — following Frank, John Kuester and Michael Curry — and ninth since the 1999-2000 season.

The once-proud Pistons are hoping Cheeks can help them snap a four-season postseason drought.

Since Detroit won an NBA title in 2004, it has slipped in the standings and with bodies in seats.

The Pistons made their sixth straight Eastern Conference finals appearance in 2008, had a first-round exit the following year against the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers and have lost an average of 50-plus games the last four years.

After Flip Saunders was fired in 2008, Michael Curry lasted only one season as coach and John Kuester made it through two years, as did Frank.

Gores has stressed the importance of this offseason, which has the potential to push the Pistons in a positive direction.

Detroit is building around Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight. It plans to build around that nucleus of young talent with the No. 8 pick overall in the NBA draft this month and space under the salary cap that was created by trading away Ben Gordon last offseason and Tayshaun Prince during the regular season.

The Pistons are counting on Cheeks to provide stability after he was fired by two franchises following three-plus seasons.

Philadelphia let him go early in the 2008-09 season with a 9-14 record and Portland sent him away more than midway through the 2004-05 with a 22-33 record. He was 122-147 with the 76ers and 162-139 with the Trail Blazers over six full seasons and parts of two seasons.

The 56-year-old Cheeks spent the past four seasons as an Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach. The Chicago native was a four-time All-Star over 15 seasons in the NBA, helping the Sixers win a championship in 1983. He started his post-playing career with the Quad City Thunder, helping the team win the CBA title in 1994, and later went on to be a Sixers assistant for John Lucas, Johnny Davis and Larry Brown — one of Detroit's many coaches in recent years.

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