There's just one week left in the NBA season, which means we're about 10 days away from a number of head coaches getting fired. It happens every spring, just as surely as previously unknown prospects shoot up draft boards and malcontents claim that certain stars don't have the mental fortitude to win championships. It's very difficult to hold on to a coaching job for a long time, and most guys know that when they start. Luckily for them, they get paid millions of dollars in exchange for handling all that pressure.
Nevertheless, facing the prospect of getting fired can be a difficult experience. The Detroit Pistons' Lawrence Frank, one of the coaches most likely to lose his job, is not going to go out without standing up for himself and others dealing with serious criticism. From Terry Foster for The Detroit News (via SLAM):
"I will admit it, it (ticks) me off sometimes," Frank said of the criticism his colleagues have been receiving this season. Byron Scott, whose Cavaliers host the Pistons tonight, is under intense pressure. [...]
Frank himself is on the hot seat, and there is speculation he might lose his job. Frank was animated and slapped his hands as he spoke to the media Tuesday. He stood inside the Pistons practice facility, pointing at three championship banners won by the Pistons in 1989, 1990 and 2004.
"Everybody shares responsibility when those banners are hung," Frank said. "We as coaches know if you don't get it done, then you are fired." [...]
"It is all about what your ownership is about," Frank said. "Everyone knows where your team is at. The key is are you committed? Do you believe in the plan because it might not come in the results? It is about the process.
"When you lose with young guys and the other guys are not rotation guys in your rotation, when you lose with these guys, you know you are going to lose."
Frank makes some solid points, particularly the idea that record is sometimes a poor indicator of progress. If a team commits to developing young players, it's likely that losses will pile up. That's been the case for the Pistons — their 51-93 record in Frank's two seasons as coach is not exactly inspiring. On the other hand, the value of those seasons has been figuring out the long-term viability of players like Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Brandon Knight, the trio the Pistons hope will carry the franchise to contention. It looks likely they won't be able to achieve those goals without help, but at least they learned that lesson.
The problem for Frank, though, is that judging his performance on other forms of development also doesn't paint his performance in a particularly kind light. He's often seemed unwilling to buy into the idea of handing the team over to young players, sticking with guys like Charlie Villanueva far too long before relenting. Frank's handling of Drummond was particularly frustrating — he seemed not to trust the raw, extremely talented big man for several months despite the fact that he's far and away the Piston best equipped to turn into a dominant player. Frank stands to lose his job not because he's failed to win, but because he's shown that he's not the best person to lead a rebuilding project. He's caught between maximizing wins and letting young players find themselves, resulting in a team with no clear direction.
Frank makes a sympathetic argument, but it unfortunately does him no favors. He claims that success comes when everyone in an organization is on the same page, but then fails to acknowledge that the issue could be that he's the one not getting the long-term plan. Perhaps the problem is that management doesn't have a clear idea of what it wants — Joe Dumars' haphazard roster construction would indicate that's a strong possibility.
Yet, while two seasons may be a short time to see progress play out in a team's win-loss record, it's a fairly lengthy period to judge the style and fit of a particular coach. Over two years, Frank has made it clear what he values and how he goes about his job. The Pistons can be forgiven for thinking he isn't the man to lead the team. It's an issue of fit, not inherent value.