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HomeBasketballNBANew Detroit Pistons coach J.B. Bickerstaff makes strong first impression

New Detroit Pistons coach J.B. Bickerstaff makes strong first impression

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New Detroit Pistons head coach J.B. Bickerstaff was introduced on Wednesday and it took almost no time to see he’s more in on the job than Monty Williams ever was.

Bickerstaff is the 38th coach in team history. The Pistons on June 30 agreed to a four-year contract with Bickerstaff, with a team option for a fifth season. Terms of the contract have not been disclosed.

Recently hired team president of basketball operations Trajan Langdon, hired at the end of May, said the team interviewed three or four candidates before extending an offer to Bickerstaff. Langdon, hired on May 31, said Bickerstaff showed the passion and desire to be in Detroit.

The Cleveland Cavaliers fired Bickerstaff in May after a loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals, despite the team winning 99 games over the last two seasons. The Cavs’ 2024 first round series win over Orlando was the franchise’s first since 2018 and its first without LeBron James since 1993.

Bickerstaff takes over a situation similar to what he had in Cleveland. The Pistons have several young players and recent top-5 draft picks. That includes lead guard Cunningham, who signed a five-year, $224 million extension on July 9 that locks the former No. 1 overall draft pick in for the long term. Cunningham last season averaged 22.7 points, 7.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.

The Pistons went 14-68 this past season, finishing with the worst record in the NBA for the second year in a row. Detroit hasn’t won more than 23 games since the 2018-19 season. Langdon in short order has made a series of moves to add to the team’s depth and shooting, which would give Cunningham more room to operate on the court. The Pistons last season ranked in the bottom five in 3-point percentage, and 29th out of 30 teams in 3-pointers made.

Bickerstaff takes over for fired coach Monty Williams. Williams was let go this spring one season into a six-year, $78.5 million contract. The team also fired general manager Troy Weaver after it won 23% of their games in Weaver’s four seasons.

Bickerstaff, 45, finished in the top five in NBA Coach of the Year voting in 2022 and 2023. He went 170-159 in more than four years in Cleveland, and 6-11 in the playoffs with the Cavs. Bickerstaff took over when former University of Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein quit during the 2019-20 season.

Bickerstaff has been around the game for awhile. His father, Bernie, won 419 games over 15 seasons as head coach of Seattle, Denver, Washington, Charlotte and the Los Angeles Clippers.

Bickerstaff during the July 10 press conference shared detailed plans for the team and its players. He talked about how good Cade Cunningham can be. Bickerstaff discussed the role of the veterans the team signed this offseason. He talked about what would turn things around for the franchise, and what fans should expect.

Following are some of the highlights from Bickerstaff’s intro in Detroit.

On taking the job despite the franchise’s recent struggles
“I’m excited to be a part of this. What the job comes down to for me is being a partner, and an opportunity to build something special and unique. I believe in the people running things, and I believe in the talent we have. In the conversations we’ve had, I had a great feeling this organization is headed in the right direction and being led by the right people.”

On Cunningham’s potential
“I think (Cunningham) is a stud. I don’t think there’s a lot on the court he can’t do. He’s got size, the ability to see the floor, the ability to create shots. Defensively, with his length and size, there’s so many things we can do with him. Our focus is to make him one of the best two-way players in the league.”

On finding the best lineups
“Whatever the roster is, we play to that. I think that’s one of the things that makes you able to have success — being able to adjust. We’re not stuck in one way. We’ll research the games from last year, get the guys on the floor, look at the numbers, and find the best lineups. Then we’ll make guys work for opportunity. You can’t give handouts. You have to earn it.”

On expectations for Year One
“Where we aim to go is where development impacts winning. How do we make (the players) better winners. You’ll see the plays time and time again where guys are growing to make a winning play. That’s what our focus is on. This is going to be a fun situation. Sure, there’ll be ups and downs, but when you see our style of play, you’ll know you’re watching Pistons basketball.”

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