The NBA is a general manager’s (or other titles that all do the same thing) league. More stats, more money, more decisions on team building come from upstairs, while most head coaches simply make the pieces work. Joe Dumars seemed to be on the path to greatness through the early years of his tenure with the Detroit Pistons, but the failures and bad choices he’s made since building that championship team have finally caught up with him, costing him his job.
Dumars’ first job as the general manager of the pistons, a role he assumed in 2000, was keeping Grant Hill on the team. Hill bolted, and Dumars had to start building a team from scratch while getting rid of some bad contracts. Ben Wallace was part of that trade, as Dumars slowly assembled the team that would win the championship.
No longer a team built around one star, but a tough defensive group, that at first succeeded under Rick Carlisle before going to two consecutive NBA finals, winning one in 2004 against the Los Angeles Lakers, and losing in 2005 to the San Antonio Spurs.
He drafted Tayshaun Prince, he signed Chauncey Billups, traded for Rip Hamilton and also got Rasheed Wallace via trade. That was a great core, that peaked in 2004 and 2005, but the decisions made after assembling that group took Dumars from being one of the most respected GMs in the league to one who can’t get anything right.
We can argue all day about what other GMs would have done about Milicic at number 2 in that 2003 draft, but the bottom line is that Detroit missed out on Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Guys like David West and Josh Howard also came on later in that draft. Milicic contributed absolutely nothing to that team except getting his human victory cigar nickname, moving on to do very little with other NBA teams.
In 2007, Dumars started breaking apart everything he built, and ended up with nothing but big contracts and unfulfilled potential. The Pistons made the conference finals in 2006, 2007 and 2008. This team was in six consecutive conference finals, but a series of moves broke that up, and since 2009 they haven’t been able to make the playoffs, and even win 30 games, a mark they might not even reach this season.
Billups was traded to Denver were he did very well, while Iverson bombed in Detroit. He pretty much gave away Arron Afflalo and Amir Johnson, both players who could be a lot better than some of the guys on the current team, signed Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva on huge contracts and then dumped Gordon and used the extra money to add Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings in a system that doesn’t fit them.
Dumars’ contract runs out at the end of the season, but he won’t be expecting a renewal. The rebuilding time took too long, and this year has been a huge failure, with coaches fired in the middle, probably above Dumars’ head. Dumars isn’t exactly Isiah Thomas in terms of being someone no one wants to touch, but the last few years at the job haven’t exactly made him someone teams will be fighting to try and sign at any capacity.