Detroit — Pistons general manager Troy Weaver spoke to reporters for the first time since the team ended the regular season with a loss to the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, which was the same day Dwane Casey announced his decision to step down as head coach and accept a front-office role with the franchise.
Weaver discussed a variety of different topics in his 22-minute press conference, including the Pistons’ injury-plagued season that resulted in the second-worst record in franchise history, the team’s positional needs that will be addressed through the NBA draft and free agency, and perhaps most importantly, his upcoming coaching search.
“I know what this team needs, and it’s simple: discipline, development and defense,” Weaver said. “That’s going to be the call for the next coach.”
Those qualities would benefit the Pistons, a young team with seven of its core members under the age of 22 (sans the 24-year-old Isaiah Livers). From Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren to Isaiah Stewart, James Wiseman and Killian Hayes, to even Cade Cunningham, none of those players are finished products, despite their high upside, so having a coach with the ability to maximize their talents will be beneficial.
The Pistons (17-65) finished 28th in defensive rating this season and allowed 118.5 points per game, which was 27th in the league. In order to take the leap toward the postseason that Detroit aspires to in the near future, those defensive numbers will need to drastically improve.
“A lot of times, you’ll see people go the opposite way. If you had a defensive coach, you want an offensive coach. If you had an offensive coach, you want a defensive coach. If you had an old guy, you want a young guy. The right guy is the right guy. It doesn’t matter what he’s known for.”
Despite a busy offseason that includes hiring a new coach, finding the right fit in the draft and tweaking the roster during free agency, Weaver did not place a timetable on when he would like to fill his coaching vacancy.
“No urgency,” Weaver said. “The right coach at the right time is the right time for the right coach. Whenever that is, six weeks from now, one week from now, it doesn’t matter. We just want to land on the right person.”
Weaver wants a coach that can galvanize the Pistons’ young roster and propel it back toward playoff prominence. The last time the Pistons reached the playoffs was in 2018-19, when Casey led the team that featured Blake Griffin to the postseason. Detroit was swept by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round that year.
Several names have been reported as candidates for Detroit’s coaching vacancy, including Bucks assistant Charles Lee, Toronto Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin, Vanderbilt coach and Pistons legend Jerry Stackhouse and former Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka, who was a finalist for the Pistons’ last coaching process before they decided to hire Casey in 2018.
Udoka was suspended by the Celtics this season for a “violation of team policies,” which reportedly involved an improper workplace relationship with a female subordinate. Shortly after Udoka’s suspension, Pistons assistant general manager Rob Murphy was placed on leave after an allegation of workplace misconduct involving a female former employee.
Asked if there was an update regarding Murphy’s status with the team, Weaver kept it brief: “No, we’re still working through that process. That’s not in our hands right now, but, hopefully, we’ll have a resolution for that soon.”
Another Pistons assistant general manager, Josh Bartelstein, left to become the new CEO of the Phoenix Suns, joining new owner and United Wholesale Mortgage CEO Mat Ishbia. Weaver applauded Bartlestein’s new opportunity, which places him back on the business operations side of the NBA.
“Josh did a tremendous job here,” Weaver said. “Excited about his new opportunity, but it’s like anything else here: next man up. We’ll find somebody either within the program or look outside to come in and help continue to move the ball forward, but we’re excited about Josh. He was on the basketball side here, but he proved himself and he cut his teeth on the business side. Happy for him and I wish them all the best.”
In his announcement to transition to the front office, Casey said the team would benefit from a new voice. With that understanding, one could wonder if the next coach would either be an external or internal hire. Casey’s lead assistants, Rex Kalamian and Jerome Allen, both have strong relationships with several members within the organization and the players. Weaver said the “new voice” theory wouldn’t disqualify anyone from the current coaching staff from being considered for the job.
Whoever receives the opportunity to lead the Pistons into their next chapter has a tough task ahead, but will be granted a unique opportunity with the franchise’s incoming top-five pick, an abundance of untapped potential with their young roster and a front office that’s willing to support the team in free agency.
Regardless of what happens this offseason, with where the Pistons currently stand, there’s nowhere to go but up.