Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Flip Saunders: Dead man walking

Is the end of the Flip Saunders era nigh? Yahoo lead columnist and Detroiter Dan Wetzel believes Flip has lost the Pistons locker room, and barring a miraculous resurrection against the Heat, deserves to get the ziggy...

And unless Flip Saunders immediately regains control of the spiraling Detroit Pistons, he should be fired just one season into taking over what seemed to be the ultimate coaching job – in charge of the most selfless, self-motivated team in basketball.

The failures of Detroit, which trails the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals 3-1 heading into Wednesday's Game 5, aren't all Saunders' fault, but he will be the fall guy. He has to be.

The most coachable team in the league doesn't turn into the Portland Trail Blazers for no reason.

Comparing the Pistons to the Jailblazers? Who would have thought of anyone making such a comparison as little as 3 weeks ago? Unfortunately, that is how complete the playoff collaspe of the Pistons has become. Everyone is looking for a scapegoat. Considering that there has been only one significant change in the Pistons' makeup since last season, that being Flip Saunders, blaming the implosion on Flip is easy. But is it correct?

When you walk into a winning situation, as Flip did with the Pistons, where expectations are almost unreasonably sky high, you best have your eyes wide open. If you don't meet those sky high expectations, expect the ripping to commense. And it has with earnest. The media has been almost gleeful in their rush to judge Flip Saunders and the appearent locker room unrest. But it isn't the media that counts, it's the players. Judging from everything we've read, Flip has lost the respect of the Pistons roster, if he ever had it to begin with. Most importantly, the face of the Detroit Pistons, Ben Wallace, seems to be the ringleader of the "Throw Flip under the bus" club.

It's more than obvious that Flip has lost Big Ben. Looking back, Wallace's refusal to re-eneter the Orlando game was the beginning of the downward spiral. Flip's offense ignores Wallace to the same extreme point that Rick Carlisle's did, and we know what happened to Carlisle. Wetzel has the ugly numbers.

This postseason, Wallace is averaging a meager 3.9 shots a game and his numbers have dropped across the board – just 4.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.4 steals.

As Ben Wallace goes, so goes the Pistons. But Wallace is in a huge funk, and so are the Pistons. He's struggling mightily on offense, it's affecting his defense, and for that matter, his locker room demeanor. And right or wrong, Ben blames Flip. Again I ask, is that the correct thing for Ben to do? Maybe not, but it's the easy thing for him to do.

Thus, the rest of the team piles on. As does the media. And the fans. It's now getting ugly while rumors of Flip's job security run rampant.

So we have a Pistons team in turmoil, even though they have not yet been eliminated from the playoffs. That seems like a formality at this point, be it tonight or Friday. There's some crazy talk of blowing up the team after the playoff debacle ends. That's not going to happen. The Pistons are too good and still relatively young, so we'll see tweaks in the roster. As to what those tweaks will be, it's way too early to determine, as the Ben Wallace contract situation needs to be sorted out.

But...We all know what does happen after a locker room uprising. Just ask Alan Trammell. It's an easy solution to fire the coach. It's instant gratification for both the fans and media. The Pistons have been known to have an itchy trigger finger in regards to head coaches. If I'm Flip Saunders, I'm prepping the resume and figuring out how to invest my buyout.

Much as Miami of Ohio is known as the "Cradle of Coaches," The Palace has become a graveyard of coaches. Coaches of all calibers. Hall of fame (Daly, Brown), good (Carlise, Collins), and bad (Rothstein, Chaney, Gentry, Irvine). If Saunders is given the ziggy, and odds are good that it could happen, with the Pistons track record, what quality head coach in their right mind would want the Piston job?

Does Flip Saunders deserve to lose his job? Seems like an overly extreme reaction. Will he lose the head coach job? If you connect the dots and consider the Pistons' past history, let's just say I wouldn't bet the rent money on Flip staying.


  1. I am sorry but if the Pistons fire Flip then they seriously lose a lot of cred in my book, quite a lot.

    Plus, take your pick, Ben or Chauncey? Ben is free this summer, Chauncey can opt out, do you think Chauncey will come back if they do that to Flip? If he would it probably would cost more that's for sure. Me I take Chauncey all day over Ben.

  2. I don't think Ben Wallace should be brought back, to be truthful.

    Get me a low-post scorer who can rebound a little bit. Sacrifice some defense for a player who can score off the block.

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