Posted Aug 3 2011 1:05PM - Updated Aug 3 2011 1:50PM
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Under normal circumstances, Lawrence Frank would have begun his tenure as the coach of the Detroit Pistons by talking about Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey.
Instead, he found himself discussing Boston coach Doc River, Philadelphia president Rod Thorn and his high-school basketball coach - names from his past instead of his future.
Welcome to the strange new world of taking over a team during the NBA lockout.
"This is going to be a little difficult because of the situation we are in," Frank said early in his news conference. "I can't talk in specifics or about the players, so I'll have to be a lot more vague than I normally try to be."
Frank talked about the excitement of taking over one of the NBA's "elite franchises," pointing to the replica banners hanging in the team's practice facility.
"You look at the numbers - six straight years in the conference finals, playoffs in eight of the last 10 seasons and those three titles," he said. "There are only five teams in the NBA with three of those, and this is one of them. That's an honor."
Frank is walking into anything but an elite situation, though. Under Michael Curry, the team squeaked into the 2008-09 playoffs and were swept right back out by the Cleveland Cavaliers. That led to Curry being fired in favor of another first-time coach, John Kuester.
Kuester's record was bad enough on paper - he went 57-107 in his two seasons - but the once-proud franchise turned into an embarrassment during the 2010-11 season. More than half of the roster was suspended at least once for insubordination, and the team made headlines when seven players boycotted a shootaround in Philadelphia, leading Kuester to use just six players in that night's game.
"Right now, our first job is to get this franchise back on track," Pistons president Joe Dumars said. "We went through a very lengthy process with this hire - we started talking to Lawrence in June, and it is now August - and I'm very confident that he's the right person to get us going in the right direction."
Although he didn't say it directly, Dumars knows that with new ownership his job might rely on this hire going well.
"Working with Tom (Gores) and his people was different, because they have a system in place that they use for a big hire - and this was definitely a big hire," Dumars said. "It was a very thorough search process, and that's what we needed, because we are desperate to find a long-term coach."
Frank brings the NBA experience that Curry and Kuester lacked - he coached the Nets from 2003-09, taking them to the playoffs four times - but he was asked about the stigma of having never played basketball, even in high school.
"It's not a stigma, it is a fact," he said. "I was like a bad Hollywood actor - all I ever heard was 'cut, cut, cut, cut.'
"My senior season, the coach put his arm around me and told me I had a ton of courage, but I was still cut."
Frank, though, didn't see that as a problem with the Nets and doesn't expect it to cause problems in Detroit.
"It comes down to your actions as a coach, and whether or not you back up what you say," he said. "We need to reclaim the Pistons culture, and that's about hard work. The slates are clean. They have to be, because your scrapbooks don't matter in this game."
Frank's work ethic impressed Dumars on his first day on the job.
"Lawrence won't want me to say this, but he started on Monday and he was here at 5:30 in the morning," Dumars said. "We might be in an odd situation with the lockout, but he's still here working."
Frank sheepishly acknowledged he had arrived before sunrise, saying he likes to watch film in the morning.
The question he can't answer is when he will get to do anything else.