We Reminisce: Detroit Players Laugh At John Kuester’s Ejection

09.10.12 5 years ago

Tracy McGrady

I don’t know how the Billy Gillispie mutiny will be resolved in Lubbock, but as Dime wrote in Smack last night, it’s very rare — and thus troubling for the coach’s future — that players are so public with their disdain for a coach. It’s ominous a season after going 1-17 in conference play. Today, ESPN added that Texas Tech’s leading scorer has announced he doesn’t want Gillispie back — Jordan Tolbert even goes as far as saying “we do need a coach.” But at least he has backers, and big ones at that: Gillispie’s peers and former players, Bill Self and Deron Williams included, are coming out just as publicly in support, unwilling to cede the spotlight to the disenfranchised. It reminded me of the last team mutiny in basketball I’d seen — but in this case, it seemed like no one had John Kuester‘s back.

Kuester’s first season in Detroit did not go well. It’s hard to take over a team after its incredible run of success runs dry, but the 27 wins in Year One Kuester and the Pistons eked out never gave the team even a hint of the old magic. By his second season, the Pistons outright stopped listening to him, with reports of players walking into the showers during his postgame talks and not showing up for shootaround. When he was ejected Feb. 25, 2011, it was officially ugly. Like Gillispie, I’d rarely seen a team roll over so publicly. Tracy McGrady was caught laughing about the ejection on camera.

Improbably, Kuester kept his job through the end of the season but there was no reason to watch Detroit basketball the last four months of the 2011 season. If Gillispie gets fired, he’ll have had support to even consider Tech keeping him. Kuester and Detroit, in contrast, seemed to be left strung up like a flag in a rainstorm, either forgotten or uncared about by management. A team-wide half-shrug of apathy, really. He got canned after going 57-107 by new owner Tom Gores but he became a part of the Lakers’ staff under Mike Brown last season. Two days ago he was reassigned to be the Lakers’ advance scout on the East Coast, meaning he won’t have to deal with new Laker post Dwight Howard on the bench. Howard’s own coaching drama in Orlando is its own, ugly memory, of course, but never did it spawn into a team taking as much issue with a coach as in Detroit or Lubbock. Unpopular coaches leading unhappy teams come and go, but both the beginning of the disunion in Detroit, and its drawn-out conclusion, stand out as a particularly notable chapter.

What should happen with Billy Gillispie?

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