Most NBA players have nicknames, and most NBA rosters feature at least a few guys with recognizable handles, but the Detroit Pistons have a lot of guys with nicknames. Smoove. Big Penguin. Mr. Big Shot. Moose. Gigi. Bynumite. KCP. Pey-pey. And, of course, Jorts. (My suggestions for the guys who don't have well-established nicknames include Kyle "Singlet" Singler, Brandon "Drake-O" Jennings and Whoa-ny Mitchell.)
With nicknames occupying such a prominent place in the Pistons' culture — and, indeed, an increasingly large place in the NBA itself — it stands to reason that Detroit's players would take great care in selecting a sobriquet for their head coach, Maurice Cheeks. (Apparently "Mo" doesn't quite cut it by itself.) And it seems that they're really stepping their efforts up of late, resulting in no fewer than three new nicknames for the point guard-turned-play caller.
“I know [Rodney Stuckey is] a rhythm player. He’s a guy who comes to practice and does the same routine every day, so I think that has something to do with his consistent play,” Cheeks said. “The way he puts his work in before and after practice and before the games may have something to do with his consistent play.”
Although some of his teammates playfully refer to Cheeks as “Mo Obama”, in reference to the President due to Cheeks’ preachy nature, it was appreciated.
“He’s straightforward, keeps it real. He expects a lot from me and my teammates,” Stuckey said. “He just wants me to come in and bring energy and be myself.”
Cheeks went into “Obama mode” during Summer League when Stuckey visited the team shortly after Cheeks was hired as coach, and Stuckey, entering the final year of his contract, wasn’t even sure he would be with the team come training camp.
“He tells you like it is,” Stuckey said. “When he gets on you, he does it in a positive way because he wants you to do better.”
While metro Detroit was hit by a snowstorm, class was in session as Pistons head coach Maurice Cheeks spent time watching video with Andre Drummond and Brandon Jennings before speaking to the media after practice.
“Me and Brandon started watching it, and Andre wanted to come in,” Cheeks said. “He’s a student. I’m a teacher. He just called me ‘Principal’ because I had my glasses on. Just trying to show them the game, that’s all.”
And, most recently, from Goodwill in the Dec. 16 Detroit News:
A running nickname several of the Pistons players have given Maurice Cheeks is “Reverend Obama,” comparing him to President Barack Obama, his fellow Chicagoan.
Although Cheeks doesn’t appear to be the preachy type, he can take his time before sitting a player down and giving a long-winded but much-needed talk.
I am guessing not every player on the Pistons uses these nicknames — although, to be honest, I'd really enjoy seeing Jonas Jerebko walk into Cheeks' office and say, "Good morning, Reverend Obama" — and that might be why Detroit's having trouble nailing down just one nickname and sticking to it.
Any major marketing dude/campaign strategist will tell you that if you've got to streamline your approach and stay on message if you want to achieve the sort of social-lift-driven uptake that'll cause your nickname brand to go viral with the type of stickiness that really reminds consumers that when they see Maurice Cheeks, they're supposed to think "Mobama." (It needed to be shortened. You're welcome.) If you keep messing around with multiple monikers, people are just going to keep calling him Mo, like they've been since the mid-1970s. And who would want to go and stay with a perfectly reasonable thing like that?
Personally, I'm hoping "Principal" is the one that sticks, and that the Pistons — who have won three of their last four and now sit at 13-14, just one game south of .500 — figure things out to the point that they rocket up the Eastern Conference standings and make Mo a legitimate Coach of the Year candidate. If that happens, we can offer him a theoretical promotion up the educational ladder, and now that the phrase has entered my brain, I can't wait for the opportunity to call him "Dean Cheeks." He's got to earn it first, though. So go out there and make us proud, Principal. I've got a lot riding on this.
Hat-tip to Dan Feldman at PistonPowered.
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