It appears as though Joe Dumars and Tom Gores have found the next coach of the Detroit Pistons – Lawrence Frank.
Most recently, Frank is known for leading the New Jersey Nets to the worst start in NBA history. But before falling to such record-breaking lows, Lawrence Frank found significant success in New Jersey.
In what follows, I will briefly examine Frank’s five full seasons with the New Jersey Nets (leaving out the partial seasons of 03-04 and 09-10) through the lens of Wins Produced in hopes of revealing what he might accomplish in Detroit.
First, some spreadsheets (also available via Google Docs here), then some commentary.
First, it’s pretty obvious that like all winning coaches, Frank’s success in New Jersey was driven by quality players. When Jefferson, Vinsanity, and Kidd were young, healthy, and productive, Frank looked like a pretty good coach. But when injuries and age started catching up with that core trio, New Jersey struggled to win basketball games.
The clearest example of quality players driving wins in New Jersey is the mid-season trade of Devin Harris for Jason Kidd. Subtract a productive veteran and replace with a middling upstart, and what do you get? Unfortunately for Lawrence Frank, you eventually get to start looking for a new job.
Frank’s story in New Jersey once again demonstrates that first and foremost, winning coaches are a product of winning players, not the other way around.
The obvious implication for Pistons fans is that we don’t have any true star power like Kidd or Carter (yet), so we shouldn’t expect Frank’s coaching prowess to propel us from cellar dweller status.
I make this second comment hesitantly, because work done by Dr. David Berri suggests that very few coach coaches are able to impact the statistical performance of their players significantly. With that necessary qualifier out of the way, Brook Lopez had his most productive season as a rookie under the tutelage of Lawrence Frank. He was a much better rebounder and much more efficient offensive player while being coached by Frank than he has been since.
I’ll be watching Greg Monroe’s stats closely from start to finish next season for this reason.
Finally, and most importantly, Frank has done a pretty good job of playing his most productive players. Yes, there are some exceptions – Boone and Diop probably deserved more minutes from Frank, and Jianlian’s minutes scare me a bit given that Charlie Villanueva is on the roster – but overall, Frank let his best players carry the bulk of the weight.
Finding a way to accomplish the same thing in Detroit while juggling personalities (and bloated contracts) would be a significant accomplishment in year one of his tenure.
This quick look at Frank’s tenure in Jersey doesn’t reveal anything new or groundbreaking. Coaches that have and play good players tend to win, and as a result, they tend to look like good coaches. Unfortunately, the Pistons aren’t stacked with talent right now, so we shouldn’t expect an immediate run at the playoffs.
However, Frank seems to have an eye for productive talent, and establishing a consistent rotation made up of its best players is something the fans and the franchise sorely need.
Here’s hoping our new coach can make that happen.