Accepting the Detroit Pistons head coaching position gives Maurice Cheeks a three-year contract with a fourth-year team option, but whether Cheeks coaches the entirety of his contract or only a year could be an outcome tied to the fate of team president Joe Dumars. When former head coach Lawrence Frank was fired following the 2012-13 season, there was speculation about whether Dumars would also be heading to the chopping block next. As Dumars introduced Cheeks Thursday in the team's press conference, it was clear Dumars survived any threat of being fired. Still, it was assumed that team owner Tom Gores had at least sat down with Dumars at the end of the season to discuss his job status. Turns out the topic of Dumars being fired never came up with Gores, but that doesn't mean Dumars is safe. And for that matter neither is Cheeks.
#Pistons Dumars asked if he ever felt his job was in jeopardy. His response: No no not at all. It wasn't even a subject. Never came up.— Matt Dery (@deryNBA) June 13, 2013
After the official press conference Thursday, members of the media were given an opportunity to talk with Dumars for the first time since the announcement of Frank's firing came at season's end. When asked if his job status was discussed with Gores, Dumars had this to say: (via The Detroit Free Press)
“No, not at all,” Dumars said. “The subject never came up.“To be honest with you, I’m not big on the (vote of confidence). That really doesn’t apply. We just kind of dug in after the season and started working right away on ‘we got to get the next one right.’ It wasn’t the focus of the conversation, myself, at all.”
It's important to note that while Gores did not fire Dumars, he also did not extend Dumars' contract. As it stands currently,the upcoming 2013-14 season will be the final year of Dumars' contract. Dumars will be in charge for this season, but failing to meet ownership's goals (whatever they are for the upcoming season) would most likely put Dumars on the curb.
While it has been reported that both Dumars and Gores were in 100% agreement on the decision to hire Cheeks as coach, there's good reason to believe that Cheeks was more Dumars' choice than Gores'. The inclusion of Phil Jackson as an unpaid consultant was Gores' idea and decision, and while Dumars went along with Jackson there's no way to truly tell whether or not Dumars truly felt slighted. Still, it's clear that Cheeks was not one of the names that Jackson suggested to the Pistons, and therefore not one of the names Gores was initially intrigued by. Jackson's recommendation was likely his former assistant Brian Shaw, who the Pistons never interviewed. It's worth asking why not, but the lack of an interview might have more to do with the search being more Dumars-centric and Gores using a more "hands off" approach in the search. Based on Gores' relationship with Jackson, one would think that Gores would have demanded an interview with Shaw be conducted if Dumars have the absolute say in the hire.
The point of speculating about the "100% agreement" between Gores and Dumars being a little less agreeable is about Dumars' final year. If Dumars falters again this season there's a good chance that he'll be gone, and if a new GM were to be hired it's likely that the GM would want to put his own early mark on the team. The quickest way to do so would be to bring in your own coach. That would not only make this year "do or die" for Dumars, but for Cheeks as well by way of association.
There's a lottery pick, nearly $25 million in available cap space, an amnesty clause still unused, and potential trade options likely to emerge as the June 27th Draft nears closer. Plenty of opportunities for Dumars to get the Pistons back to being competitive next season, maybe not playoff competitive though. Being "in" every game next season, while nearing the mid-thirties in the win column is more than realistic. If Dumars can't show positive signs of rebuilding with an offseason full of resources than he should be shown the door. Unfortunately that door might also stay open for Cheeks. Fair or not.