April 29, 2009.
It's not exactly a day that stands out in most people’s minds.
But on Tuesday, April 29 became significant. It was the day of Detroit Pistons president Joe Dumars’ end-of-season press conference.
An annual ritual from Auburn Hills, Mich., Dumars sits at a table and answers any and every media question about the past season and the future.
On that day, during this year’s conference, there was one topic Dumars quickly addressed: the job security of first-year head coach Michael Curry.
But on Tuesday, Curry was fired. It happened less than 12 hours before the start of the free agency period.
After the debacle that was the 2008-09 season, Piston fans are not exactly in mourning over the move. Most fans believed that Curry was in way over his head, despite the white-flag waving that was the Chauncey Billups trade.
But the pink slip is still mind-blowing. Curry may not have been the right guy for the job; within the past week it was revealed that he had a rift with guard Rip Hamilton.
However, Dumars made the hire. He fired former coach Flip Saunders in order to pave the way for Curry, the man that was a budding head coach-in-training in 2007. If he was going to give up this quickly, he should have never appointed Curry for the position.
Dumars said in his late April press conference that Curry was safe. He admitted that the mishaps of the past season were due in part to the rebuilding mode the team decided to enter less than a week into the season.
Curry moved forward. On Tuesday, he was put in front of the microphones and answered the media’s questions about the draft and the future from here.
He did it as the head coach of the Detroit Pistons.
Yes, 24 hours before the team crashed the proverbial gong on its sideline leader, Curry was put in the spotlight and forced to answer questions about the team from his perspective.
Did Dumars have any idea he was going to chop down the Michael Curry tree before he made him answer questions?
It’s likely. It is really doubtful that in just 24 hours, Dumars woke up and had a head coaching epiphany. It’s hard to imagine that suddenly, without notice, he just decided this was necessary clear out of the blue.
That is why, at this point, Joe’s job needs to come in question. If he wasn’t sure about Curry, why did he definitively state that Curry would return?
Why did he allow his then-coach to stand there and answer questions about the future, when he knew that the man would not be around?
Curry may have clashed with players and lost their cooperation, which could be an answer to this. Now, he’s been run out of town, possibly by his own players and the man who hired him.
So was Rick Carlisle. So was Larry Brown. So was Flip Saunders.
See a pattern?
The player-coach connection is important, but for some reason the coaches change in Detroit and the players do not. While a guy like Curry may not be the best coach, he never stood a chance.
Neither does the next person to sit in the front chair.
That is why that seat has suddenly turned gray. What coach would want to come to the Pistons, knowing they have no job security?
Imagine if, at any other job, an employer told an employee his job was safe, had him or her included in a big project, and then fired them just days later?
The word “lawsuit” comes to mind.
Now, as rumors swirl about what to do with the $20 million cap space the Pistons have, Dumars must try to lure potential free agents without a coach. Of course, Joe D likely had candidates in mind when he pulled the trigger on Tuesday.
Former Mavericks coach Avery Johnson is considered a target. So is current TNT analyst and former Pistons coach, Doug Collins.
Are these options really better than Curry?
The Pistons’ moves are becoming more and more perplexing. This move comes just days after a draft that looked like a possible failure. Austin Daye might be a nice player, but he didn’t fit the organization’s most pressing need: point guard.
With several promising and NBA-ready point guards still available, the Pistons picked up a skinny, Tayshaun Prince-like small forward. That was like watching a football team pass on a potential franchise quarterback in the first round and instead taking a blocking tight end.
Now, this happens. Many fans were hoping for the team to use its cap space to be a player in 2010. Now, instead of filet mignon, the Pistons are settling for tofu, which is the 2009 free agent class.
An intentional tank for the upcoming season seemed like a suitable option, especially considering the summer of 2010. Now, with big money possibly going to players like Carlos Boozer, Hedo Turkoglu, and Ben Gordon, there may be an unintentional tank with little-to-no cap room next offseason.
And by that point, Joe Dumars may be without a job.