During the middle of last week, some of the most telltale nuggets were revealed as the Detroit Pistons attempt to finalize answers in a search for a new head coach.
With their second interview of Maurice Cheeks, Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News reported that the Pistons had concluded the interview process for their vacant head coaching position. They haven’t formally interviewed the Indiana Pacers’ Brian Shaw or David Fizdale of the Miami Heat, but as Goodwill points out, that certainly doesn’t rule out the prospects of phone interviews for other candidates.
ESPN’s Chris Broussard took that information a bit further, saying his sources had identified a major power struggle within Detroit’s front office. Joe Dumars reportedly prefers hiring Nate McMillan or Cheeks to lead the Pistons, while consultant Phil Jackson is angling for Shaw, his former assistant, to run the show.
If rumors of a power struggle playing out are true, Jackson and Shaw stand the most to gain. It’s been nearly a week since Cheeks’ second interview, and no movement has been made on Detroit’s front with regards to a hire. Similarly, the Pistons could have already hired McMillan if they truly wanted him. Each are coaching free agents. Why else would the Pistons be holding off, other than to sit down formally with Shaw once Indiana’s playoff run comes to an end and talk contract? It’s hard to believe that with Jackson in the fold, Detroit hasn’t already been able to talk to Shaw through backchannels and gauge his possible interest.
That’s probably why the longer the Pistons go without hiring McMillan or Cheeks, the more evident it becomes that Shaw is the man who will be leading Detroit, and Jackson could be gaining steam towards eventually taking over the front office. Should Dumars not get his way with the coach, (and he hasn’t immediately when he could have), it would be a telltale sign that his influence is waning in the eyes of ownership. In that scenario, it would probably only be a matter of time before Dumars, a proud man, exits stage left, perhaps leaving an opening for Jackson to eventually take things over in a more formal role.
When Jackson came on board informally in early May, I outlined this potentially outlandish power play scenario, where Shaw would come aboard as coach and Jackson, with his man in place, would stick around in the Motor City to run the show. This would set things up perfectly for Jackson, a man who is always calculated, thinking two moves ahead. Avoiding the Brooklyn Nets’, Toronto Raptors’ and Cleveland Cavaliers’ overtures was crafty, because Jackson knows he’s already got ownership he’s comfortable with in Detroit, and the best chance of landing Shaw without meddling, thus getting his way. All of Jackson’s past struggles have come in the form of overbearing ownership, be it Jerry Reinsdorf in Chicago or lately, the Buss’s in Los Angeles. A friendly, working relationship with Tom Gores can’t be underestimated.
As Broussard writes, it will be most interesting to see who the eventual selection becomes. The longer Detroit waits on a resolution to their coaching conundrum, the more obvious it becomes that Dumars might not be getting his reported way and could quickly be on the outs with ownership.
Should that be the case, Shaw and Jackson are the two obvious winners.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax