Monty Williams' firing will hopefully signify a legitimate step forward for the Pistons

The Detroit Pistons had to persuade Monty Williams to take their money and their job a year ago, and then Williams had to convince the Pistons he wanted to stay after a disastrous first season.

Team owner Tom Gores made the call himself to fire Williams, league sources told Yahoo Sports, and now newly minted but not yet introduced Pistons president Trajan Langdon will set out to hire a head coach following a coaching cycle that has already gone through twists and turns.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers still have vacancies, and the Pistons are the third — with this next hire being the sixth head coach under Gores since he bought the team at the end of the 2010-11 season.

More head coaches than playoff wins — because the once-proud franchise hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008. Other franchises have gone through levels of contention and rebuilds and been back to relevance while the Pistons haven’t found traction.

General manager Troy Weaver and now Williams are out, and the Pistons are changing course yet again. But it would be very easy, yet shortsighted, to blame the Pistons' woes on the exiting figures.

This organization needs a full cleansing, an honest examination of who’s involved in basketball decisions and if the No. 1 agenda behind those decisions is winning.

Weaver’s strength was in drafting and identifying talent, but he missed badly when selecting Killian Hayes at No. 7 in 2020. Hayes was outright released in February after the franchise gave him multiple chances to prove himself, including from Williams, who played him over Jaden Ivey — a truly puzzling decision.

FILE - Detroit Pistons head coach Monty Williams looks on during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Friday, March 29, 2024, in Washington. The Detroit Pistons have fired coach Monty Williams after just one season, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday, June 19.(AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)
Monty Williams went 14-68 with the Pistons. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

The Pistons have selected talented players after the Hayes disaster, like Ivey, Jalen Duren, Isaiah Stewart and most recently Ausar Thompson. All are athletic, all are very young and naturally it hasn’t translated to winning. Perhaps they are good pieces who don’t quite fit.

Team building and the team in the building upstairs have been the biggest impediments to success before Weaver got there and during his time in Detroit. The Pistons tried to fill in Weaver’s gaps in some of the administrative details, gaps he admitted to ownership when he took the job. Issues existed before Williams arrived with a then-record contract, and things got only worse during that ugly 28-game losing streak that led to a loss of faith all around the city and put the spotlight on Williams and his desire to be in Detroit.

Vice chairman Arn Tellem has been involved with the franchise since 2015 after being one of the most successful power brokers in basketball. He’s made an imprint with the business community, helped spearhead the Pistons' move to downtown Detroit and later its new practice facility, and the Pistons have taken on many of the clients he’s been connected to, but it hasn’t borne much success.

A league source told Yahoo Sports recently, “There’s four factions in that building,” and getting on the same page should be the first objective.

Agencies have had influence over organizations before, and there have been levels of success. Klutch Sports has a strong relationship with the Los Angeles Lakers, and New York Knicks president Leon Rose spent decades at CAA, so naturally many of its clients have been funneled that way.

But those are the historic Lakers and the Knicks, who’ve recently turned things around over the past half decade. The Pistons have put spackle on walls of mistakes over the past decade, with splotches of a foundation — which is more than they’ve had during previous regimes, but far less than they need to compete in this NBA.

Since the playoffs went to 16 teams and four rounds in 1984, the Pistons have advanced to 11 conference finals — trailing only the Boston Celtics in appearances in the East. This isn’t a weigh station; it’s a franchise with tradition, with banners that have hung from whatever building they’ve played in, and they’ve taken down superstars along the way to put themselves in historical rooms.

This is where Langdon comes in and the course he will chart — as the first president of basketball operations since Stan Van Gundy had that title and the role as head coach in 2014.

Tellem represented Langdon as a player and naturally thinks highly of him. Hopefully for the Pistons' sake, Langdon can represent one voice and one direction for the franchise as he steps into a role for the first time.

The Pistons had three options with Williams, sources told Yahoo Sports, as Langdon and Williams met routinely since Langdon's hiring. One was going all in with the coach with the money remaining on his contract. Another was giving him a second year to see if he connected better and developed the young talent on the roster.

The third was cutting him loose, as giving him another year seemed to only kick the can down the inevitable road, especially with 2021 No. 1 draft pick Cade Cunningham up for a rookie extension this summer and having a roster around him that doesn’t complement his skillset.

So the Pistons chose Option 3 in firing Williams and eating the $60-plus million on his deal.

One could easily surmise Williams had to take the job because of the money, which he candidly admitted on the day of his introduction. It set off a chain reaction around the NBA for the rest of the coaching profession, a stimulus package of sorts.

Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstra, Ty Lue and Steve Kerr all were worth it, but it’s a lot easier for everyone else to get big paydays when one sets the curve.

But when he told the Pistons he preferred to take the year off following his exit from the Phoenix Suns, especially with his wife’s health situation, the Pistons would’ve been better off listening.

He wasn’t the best fit for them as a veteran coach who went to the NBA Finals in 2021 with the Phoenix Suns. Williams needs a veteran team with the right voice in the locker room to echo his message, and the Pistons, with their youth, need a coach who can focus on development — also, a roster without so many mismatched pieces.

James Borrego could be a name to watch, league sources told Yahoo Sports, as well as ESPN analyst JJ Redick. Redick is currently a prime candidate for the Lakers job, so it isn’t known how much traction Detroit could actually gain.

Redick and Langdon have the Duke connection, and they were in New Orleans when Redick signed there as a free agent before the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season.

Tellem is also a fan of Redick, for what it’s worth.

Soon, Langdon will take the podium in Detroit and explain to a fan base desperate to get back into the good graces of the NBA how he plans to get there.

For his sake, and the sake of everyone around, it’ll hopefully be one voice, one agenda, one vision.