July 08, 2009
This probably says more about me than it does the subject of the quote, but the half-phrase "hired well-regarded assistant coach ..." always sets my heart a flutter. Unless the sentence ends with "Patrick Ewing."
Nothing against the NBA coaching retreads on their second and third gig, most of those jobs are well-earned, but I always love seeing a lead assistant make the jump, especially if he isn't an interim choice.
The fresh ideas are fun to take in, observe, call out or clap to. And there's always the ability to more properly gauge the assistant's influence on the team's he's leaving behind in retrospect.
We're getting it all with John Kuester, who is set to take over the Pistons. He's been bombing around the assistant ranks for two decades now, originally getting his start under Larry Brown's wing, and the impending Pistons hiring will mean a reunion of sorts for Kuester and his new city, as he was on the sidelines for Detroit's last championship, in 2004.
Kuester's most recent, and most famous role was of Mike Brown's offensive coordinator with the Cavaliers last season, a season that saw the team jump from 19th (and a very ugly 19th, at that) in offensive efficiency to fourth last season with Kuester joining Cleveland's ranks.
Yes, the Cavaliers enjoyed a solid season from new addition Mo Williams(notes), LeBron James(notes) improves, and the club also got a full year's run out of Delonte West(notes); but the shape of the Cleveland offense was markedly different with Kuester on board, something you couldn't completely pin on personnel changes and internal development. Kuester had these guys in the right places.
Or did Brown have them in the right places? I guess we'll find out in 2009-10. Delicious.
The team that Kuester is inheriting is not a championship contender, but it could rank among the best offensive sets in the NBA by year's end. An improving Rodney Stuckey(notes) alongside two big scorers in Ben Gordon(notes) and Charlie Villanueva(notes) should prove for an exciting, entertaining Pistons squad that will seem light years removed from Michael Curry's questionable offensive and defensive sets, Rasheed Wallace(notes) chucked three-pointers, or Allen Iverson's(notes) low-percentage gambles on both ends.
The team still hasn't figured out what to do with Rip Hamilton, whose presence creates a logjam at the off-guard spot and a headache for the salary structure. With the luxury tax and salary cap falling slightly off this summer (and potentially dropping by a significant amount next summer), it's hard to see any team taking a chance on Rip, who slid last year. Then again, one should never underestimate an NBA GM's ability to overrate a big name.
Kuester has no such name, yet. But we can't wait to see how he'll be in his first turn as head man.