It has been more than six weeks since Dwane Casey stepped down as the Detroit Pistons’ head coach. There are three finalists to replace him, but it’s unclear how close the team is to filling the vacancy.
Whomever they select will lead what the front office hopes is the end stage of a rebuild period. The Pistons have ample cap space, the fifth overall pick in the 2023 draft, and will use both to try to move past this season’s league-worst 17-65 performance.
The coach will be tasked with developing a group of young players led by Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, a backcourt duo that could eventually help the franchise ascend in the clogged Eastern Conference.
The team is taking its time to get the coaching hire right. Here’s what we know so far.
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Who are the finalists?
New Orleans Pelicans assistant Jarron Collins, Milwaukee Bucks assistant Charles Lee and former Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie.
All three flew to Los Angeles during the second week of May to interview with team owner Tom Gores. They each are inexperienced compared to Detroit’s previous two head coaches, Casey and Stan Van Gundy.
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The first two candidates mentioned above have traditional backgrounds.
Collins, 44, was a Golden State Warriors assistant under Steve Kerr for seven years before joining Detroit native Willie Green’s staff in New Orleans in 2021.
Lee, the youngest of the three at 38 years old, is a longtime assistant under former Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer, and initially joined Budenholzer’s staff with the Atlanta Hawks in 2014.
Ollie, 50, has the most unique background. He coached UConn from 2012-18 and led his alma mater to a national title in 2014. But several down years preceded his exit, and he was dismissed due to NCAA rules violations. He later successfully sued for wrongful termination and was repaid the remaining salary on his contract. Ollie was most recently head of coaching and basketball development at Overtime Elite, before stepping down in March.
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Could more candidates join the fray?
For now, the Pistons are sticking with their three finalists. The front office, according to sources close to the situation, contemplated opening the search to more-experienced candidates, with former Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams leading the pack of their preferred options. The sources were granted anonymity because the search remains ongoing.
For now, it appears Williams is an unlikely candidate, nearly two weeks after being dismissed in Phoenix.
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Who is making the decisions for the Pistons?
Fourth-year general manager Troy Weaver, vice chairman Arn Tellem and Gores, who has final say as owner. Gores, a Flint native and Michigan State graduate, and his firm, Platinum Equity, purchased the franchise in 2011 for $325 million.
Which teams are competing with the Pistons in the coach market?
The landscape has changed significantly in the past month. Four other teams — the Bucks, Suns, Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers — also have coach openings.
Each dismissed their head coach after disappointing exits: Toronto lost in the play-in tournament; Milwaukee, Phoenix and Philadelphia were eliminated in the playoffs.
The Bucks and Suns are in win-now mode and looking to maximize the primes of their superstar players — Giannis Antetokounmpo for the Bucks, and Devin Booker and Kevin Durant for the Suns.
It’s unclear which direction the Raptors and 76ers will lean next season. The Raptors missed the playoffs four years after winning a championship, and the 76ers are reportedly bracing for a potential James Harden exit in free agency.
Regardless, the Pistons are unique as they’re far removed from making noise in the playoffs and still in a building stage.
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What makes the Pistons’ job appealing?
In a tumultuous landscape for coaches, the Pistons hope they can offer stability. They have rising talent in Cunningham, Ivey and Jalen Duren, a clean cap sheet, veteran leadership in the locker room, and what they believe is an upward trajectory after several seasons of table-setting.
It’s less likely their next coach will have to answer for falling short of expectations in the playoffs anytime soon, or be caught in a transition from contending to rebuilding. The Pistons stuck with Casey through several painful rebuilding seasons, separating them from other franchises who have been quick to move on from coaches in similar scenarios.
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Is there a deadline to hire a coach?
The Pistons haven’t set a deadline to make a hire, though there are important dates rapidly approaching. The draft will take place June 22, and free agency negotiations can begin June 30.
Contact Omari Sankofa II at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.
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