Terry Porter and Michael Curry: Different Jobs, Same Failures
On June 9 of this past summer, the Phoenix Suns hired Terry Porter, a 45-year-old former player as their new head coach.
The very next day, the Detroit Pistons hired Michael Curry, a then-39-year-old former player as their new head coach.
The Suns went 55-27 during the 2007-'08 season with Mike D'Antoni running the show.
The Pistons went 59-23 during the 2007-'08 season with Flip Saunders at the helm.
Have you ever heard of two teams that both won over 55 games in a season firing their head coaches after that season? Both teams did, and both teams are paying for it.
So far this season, the Suns are 26-21, and, for the moment, on the outside looking in on the Western Conference playoff picture.
The Pistons' (26-21) playoff hopes aren't nearly as dire as the Suns', but their chances of doing anything notable in the postseason seem very slim at this point.
How can two franchises that have been so prolific in the past handful of seasons all of a sudden find themselves mired in such deep struggles?
Each team made what was a completely unnecessary coaching change over the summer.
Under D'Antoni, the Suns averaged 58 wins a season for four years, and, while never reaching the Finals, clearly had the talent and style of play dangerous enough to beat anyone at any time.
The reason for each team's struggles so far this season should start at the top.
How are teams full of experienced veterans, such as the Suns and Pistons, supposed to respect coaches that are basically rookies? (Porter had a two-year run as head man of the Bucks that is all but negligible.)
Porter's defensive philosophy, almost a complete 180 from D'Antoni's run-and-gun style, hasn't worked at all in Phoenix.
The team is loaded with what is likely the most offensive firepower in the league (Shaq, Steve Nash, Amare, and Jason Richardson), and already this season, they've lost to Golden State, Chicago, Charlotte, Indiana, New York, and Minnesota, all teams with losing records.
Porter led a Milwaukee team that was supposed to make the playoffs straight to the lottery for his two seasons. Why was he the right man for Steve Kerr to appoint as successor to D'Antoni, arguably the most successful coach in franchise history?
Nash, a two-time (could've easily been three) MVP under D'Antoni, is going through his worst statistical season since he re-joined the Suns in 2004.
The lack of a free-wheeling style of offense has limited his effectiveness, which was one of the main reasons the Suns were so successful over the past four seasons.
His great rapport with D'Antoni was well-documented, and D'Antoni's exit has clearly taken a visible toll on Nash's game.
Shaquille O'Neal has enjoyed somewhat of a rebirth this year, earning himself a reserve spot on the All-Star team, and Amare Stoudemire has been good enough to be voted in by the fans as a starter.
While depth is certainly an issue, there's no reason for this team, with all the talent they have, to be floundering near the bottom of the playoff picture out West.
It may be too early to fire Porter, but the issue is why he was hired in the first place.
If they were going to lose D'Antoni, they should've hired somebody with a reputation as a solid coach, somebody that the players could at least respect. (Larry Brown?)
Instead, they went with the young guy in hopes of recharging the team's batteries to lead them to the Finals for the first time with Nash leading the way. It's turned into an idea that has crashed and burned, and now has everyone talking about trading away the core and rebuilding for the future.
The respect factor for the coach is what seems to be the issue with the Detroit Pistons as well.
Curry retired as a player after the 2005 season. I'm assuming he was hired with the idea that, because he was a player so recently, he would be better than somebody like Flip at identifying with the players.
However, that's not likely something that was a real problem with the Pistons, a team known for its consistency and professionalism from top to bottom.
It was widely rumored that GM Joe Dumars was frustrated with the lack of advancement since winning it all in 2004 under Larry Brown, and a shakeup was likely going into the offseason last year.
Saunders was the first to go, and he was eventually replaced by Curry.
Unlike Porter with the Suns, the Pistons' struggles shouldn't all be attributed to Curry.
Dumars made a desperate move very early in the season, swapping the team's point guard and rock Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson.
This made Detroit change its entire lineup and rotation, eventually leading to second-year man Rodney Stuckey starting at the one alongside Iverson, with longtime scoring leader Rip Hamilton coming off the bench.
It's been extra rocky of late for the Pistons, losing home game after home game to top-tier teams—a field they used to be a part of.
Last week it was reported that Curry had lost the team, and, although it was somewhat denied, it's become quite evident that this is indeed the case.
Was there an easy solution for Dumars? Not an obvious one, at least.
But they say if it's not broke, don't fix it. The Pistons weren't broke, but Dumars tried to fix them anyway, and it's been an epic failure to this point.
There is still much of the regular season to be played, plenty of time for each of these teams to right their respective ships and get everything straightened out.
Terry and Michael had better get to work.
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