Thursday , Jun , 03 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Dumars made the right move

By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Detroit’s president of basketball
operations Joe Dumars made the right decision when he decided to fire head
coach Rick Carlisle, who had led the Pistons to the best record in the Eastern
Conference during the 2002-03 regular season and a second straight 50-win
campaign, and replace him with Hall-of-Famer Larry Brown.

Under the leadership of coach Brown, the Pistons have earned the right to play
for the NBA title for the first time since 1990. Detroit’s opponent in
finals will be the Los Angeles Lakers.

Dumars made the surprise move after Detroit was swept by the New Jersey Nets
in the 2003 Eastern Conference finals. Carlisle, who was named NBA Coach of
the Year in 2001-02 for orchestrating an 18-win turnaround in his first season
as Detroit’s head coach, had obviously done a nice job for the Pistons. But,
Dumars felt the team needed a different voice and someone who could get
Detroit over the hump and into the championship round.

Brown, who left the Philadelphia 76ers last offseason after six seasons as
their head coach, was the voice that Dumars was looking for. The 63-year-old
Brown had guided the Sixers to the finals in 2001 and knew what it would take
to get to the next level.

When Carlisle became available, Detroit’s Central Division rival Indiana
decided that they wanted him. The Pacers president of basketball operations
Larry Bird fired head coach Isiah Thomas and hired Carlisle as his
replacement.

After winning 54 games in the regular season under Brown, the Pistons, who
finished seven games behind the Pacers in the division, went into the playoffs
as the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

In the opening round of the postseason, Detroit beat the Milwaukee Bucks in
five games. The semifinals were more of a challenge, as the Pistons fought
back from a 3-2 deficit to eliminate the two-time defending Eastern Conference
champion New Jersey Nets in seven contests and advance to the conference
finals against the Pacers.

The semis were a huge test for the Brown experiment. If Detroit would have
lost game six at the Meadowlands and been eliminated from the postseason, than
the discussion would be about how Dumars made a mistake by firing Carlisle and
replacing him with Brown. Afterall, the Pistons would have accomplished less
than last season, while Carlisle would be in the conference finals with his
new squad.

Brown and the Pistons defeated Carlisle and his Indiana Pacers in six games in
the conference finals to advance to the NBA Finals.

“I feel real fortunate,” said Brown after the Pistons eliminated the Pacers.
“We beat a really good team that’s well coached. I don’t know if it was a
classic in a lot of people’s eyes, but I guess if the series was going to end,
this is the kind of game it should have ended with. I’m proud of my team. We
got close last year, made some changes, and low and behold we’re one of two
teams left. I have a lot of respect for the team we just beat.”

With the win over Indiana, the Pistons earned the right to play for the
championship for the fourth time in team history. Detroit was defeated in the
NBA Finals in 1988 by the Lakers and won back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990.
In 1989, Detroit swept the Lakers and in 1990 the Pistons defeated the
Portland Trail Blazers in five games.

“It’s unbelievable, because you know where I come from and now being able to
play for a world title is crazy, said Detroit guard Richard Hamilton after the
Pistons eliminated the Pacers. “It starts with those guys in that locker room,
especially Coach (Larry) Brown, has done an excellent job from day one, doing
everything possible to get us where we’re at right now

Since Brown was able to get the Pistons into the NBA Finals, Dumars looks like
a genius. Even if Detroit falls shorts against the powerful Lakers, the Brown
hiring was a success.