Q: What do Lawrence Frank, Maurice Cheeks and Bob Huggins have in common?
A: More than simply being lifelong coaches, two of whom were most recently fired by the Detroit Pistons.
In their jobs, Frank, Cheeks and Huggins have each maintained new Detroit boss John Loyer as an assistant coach. Cheeks had Loyer on staff when he coached in Portland and Philadelphia, and Frank maintained Loyer's services when he coached with the New Jersey Nets. Frank brought Loyer to Detroit, and once he left, Cheeks was familiar enough with Loyer's services to keep him on board. Huggins, meanwhile, tutored Loyer in the college ranks.
For the Detroit-centric reasons, it makes sense that Loyer was retained as the team's interim coach for the rest of 2014. Many of the Pistons already know Loyer well, and Loyer knows the ins and outs of the roster, too. If Detroit is truly determined to make a late push for a postseason run, they weren't going to get there by hiring an outsider smack dab in the middle of the season.
Little has been known about Loyer otherwise, however. Up until a few days ago, he didn't have his own Wikipedia page. Prior to this opportunity, he's never been a head coach in the NBA, and his only experience leading a team came through the 1999-2000 season when he led Wabash Valley Community College. He was, however, as a former player for Huggins at Akron, also his loyal assistant in Cincinnati, staying there a decade in the 1990s and appearing as a lock to take over a program before scandal eventually forced him out.
With regard to operations, Loyer's first contest, the Pistons' impressive 109-100 victory over the San Antonio Spurs should provide a decent blueprint for what to expect. Though Loyer claims to not have a style, he's been long regarded as a coach that emphasizes speed and tough defense inside. It just so happens Detroit forced 19 turnovers, outrebounded the Spurs 42-38, had 19 fast break points and scored 26 points off turnovers while seeing all five of their starters score in double figures Monday night. It was a perfectly executed Loyer game plan.
Best of all, if one inspired effort is any indication, it seems the players are, at the very least, motivated to play for their new head coach. That's more than the team could count on with Cheeks at the helm, who reportedly lost the team early on in his tenure forcing Sunday's abrupt and surprising firing.
On the outset, it appears Loyer is a hard-working career NBA assistant cast in the mold of a Tom Thibodeau, Brian Shaw, Frank Vogel or Mike Budenholzer who's deserved his shot at running a team for some time. Whether or not Loyer is able to maximize his time in Detroit and spin it into a full time opportunity with the Pistons or elsewhere remains to be seen in the near future.
What probably can be counted on, however, is Loyer coaching the next three months as if his job depends on it. In reality, it probably does.
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