AUBURN HILLS -- It has become a ritual of sports -- something like the Olympics or the World Cup.
Every two years, the media of Detroit gather at the Palace for the grand unveiling of the new Pistons coach. The ceremony is the same -- the Palace employees gather in the atrium and applaud the new coach, while Joe Dumars talks about how convinced he is that this is the right man to bring the franchise back to its glory days.
The only thing that changes in the name of the coach and the technology level of the presentation. This time, while Maurice Cheeks was introduced, two screens behind him scrolled pictures of him coaching along with shots of the few players still in good standing -- Brandon Knight, Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Rodney Stuckey, Kyle Singler and Jonas Jerebko.
Even Dumars acknowledged that what happened Thursday morning was nothing more than a show.
"People are going to be skeptical about this hire until Mo proves himself," he said. "In this business, and especially with the things we haven't gotten done in the past few years, we're not expecting to have anyone's benefit of the doubt. We have to earn that."
Dumars and Cheeks were limited in the topics they could discuss anyway, as much of the Pistons roster for next season is still a blank page. The team has the eighth pick in the draft and a large amount of cap space to fill in the talent deficit that has kept the team from winning a playoff series since Flip Saunders was in charge.
Dumars said that talking about filling the roster was a subject for another day, but said that part of Cheeks' appeal was his ability to impress potential free agents.
"We wanted someone in 2013 that can relate to today's player, and Mo has shown he can do that, especially with some of the great players he has mentored," Dumars said. "Plus this is Maurice Cheeks. Players still know what that means and what a great player he was."
Cheeks thinks that the lessons he learned working for Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City will help him avoid the mistakes he made in largely unsuccessful head-coaching stints in Portland and Philadelphia.
"The time I spent in Oklahoma City was extremely helpful," he said. "I learned the right way to do a lot of the things I did wrong in my first two jobs. Those jobs were learning experiences, but so is everything in life. You learn from everything. I don't see them as negatives. I see them as places where I learned my craft."
Cheeks hasn't accumulated a great winning percentage or a playoff-series victory, but his former players still had good things to say.
"We, obviously, talked to a lot of people that have spent time with Mo as a player and as a coach, and they all have the greatest respect for him," Dumars said. "We even talked to Rasheed, and he was colorful, but he was very positive about playing for Mo in Portland."
Dumars said that he and owner Tom Gores reached a "100 percent consensus" on Cheeks, but downplayed the role of Phil Jackson in the process.
"Phil came to the practice facility for a couple days and we had a couple phone conversations, but we didn't talk much about the Pistons coaching job," he said. "We talked about his thoughts on coaching in general, and we talked about some playoff series between the Pistons and the Bulls back in the day. Those were good conversations."
Cheeks only met a couple players on his first day, stopping by the practice facility before the press conference, and made at least one good impression.
"Kim (English), Khris (Middleton) and I were over there shooting -- we were just goofing around, and I was wearing flip-flops," Jerebko said. "Coach took one look at me and said that if I was going to be in the gym, I needed to be serious about working. I loved that. I want a coach who is going to tell us how to do things the right way. We need that."
Cheeks was impressive at the press conference as well. He's a sharp basketball mind, and a witty speaker. But Michael Curry, John Kuester and Lawrence Frank all sailed through their first days as well.
That didn't matter, and neither will today. Either Dumars and Cheeks will turn the franchise around, or the media will be back in the Palace atrium in 2015 meeting both of their replacements.