Kevin O’Neill, former Pistons assistant coach under Rick Carlisle, is a very good friend of mine who was Lawrence’s head coach at both Marquette and Tennessee. He always told me great things about Lawrence – a tireless worker and a really solid guy who got along with everybody and that’s exactly what I’ve seen from Lawrence Frank this year.
To me, he has a great understanding of how to achieve the delicate balance between pushing players and being very exacting as a coach and also getting along with his players. We all know there are coaches – and a lot of them – who could do one or the other, but it’s very, very difficult to do both. If you do that, you have a chance for great success. I see that success on the horizon, but I have to add that I don’t think it’s that far away.
You can’t spend a few hours around Lawrence Frank and not realize that he understands this game. He has wisdom far beyond his years. He made a decision a long time ago that he wanted to be a basketball coach and he works so hard at it. His preparation is beyond the beyond, but he doesn’t consider it work. I believe it’s a labor of love for him. He truly enjoys it. If you’re around Lawrence, you find you can’t ask him a question that he doesn’t have an answer for and a lot of statistical evidence to back it up.
Players don’t get this far without being intelligent on top of being talented. If they’re around a coach who really has some answers when they need answers, they’re going to open their ears and their eyes and really listen and watch. I think that’s what happens with the top-shelf coaches.
I’ve seen tremendous improvement from his team all year long. The 4-20 start was difficult. I always figure it shouldn’t matter to me, doing my job, how the team is playing. But sometimes it can be hard to watch. All of that has changed. I love how they’re playing right now and they’re only going to get better.
As Joe Dumars said last week, Lawrence has the same approach in good times and in bad. He doesn’t overreact to anything. He responds but he doesn’t overreact and there’s a dramatic difference. Nothing happens that he doesn’t know about on the basketball court. He’s going to try to make a correction or maybe even run more plays similar to the ones that are working out the right way, but he will never not respond to a situation – positive or negative – on the court.
But, again, he won’t overreact. The guys who can do their business that way, especially on this level, I believe will be able to stay with a team long enough and keep their attention long enough to have the kind of success that every franchise wants for their team.
As I said at a gathering we had for Fox Sports Detroit with the Adcraft Club of Detroit at Comerica Park a few weeks ago, when you have a coach who is a gym rat and you know that, maybe some people have their mind made up about him before they meet him and think this guy is going to be difficult and have a one-track mind. But he’s not difficult. He’s not just a good guy, he’s a great guy. The media respect and like him and I really, truly believe his players believe that, too.
Is basketball his top priority? Absolutely? Is coaching basketball what he wants to do? Absolutely. I don’t think he wants to be a general manager. If you’d ask him if he’d rather be a coach or an owner, I think he’d rather coach. Certainly basketball is at the top of his list, but he’s awake so many hours he finds time to stay in touch with everything else in the world, too. And I think that helps him as a coach.
It’s going to be a tough, uphill climb given the schedule the Pistons have had recently and still have staring them in the face, for them to make the postseason. I’m not saying they won’t, but I will say this: If you see how they’re playing now, coming so close to being able to play a full 48 and finish games and get wins, they’re getting there.
If the Pistons do not make the postseason, they’ll finish the season playing as well or almost as well as any other team that doesn’t make it. All that means is success is just around the corner. It makes the potential for next year very exciting.