Unanimous Choice

Frank flashes winning traits as Pistons unveil their next coach

Lawrence Frank
Joe Dumars made it clear in Wednesday's press conference that Lawrence Frank was the consensus pick for Pistons head coach.
Christian Petersen (NBAE/Getty Images)
Lawrence Frank came exactly as advertised for his Pistons debut. If he can be half as clear and concise when he’s standing in front of his basketball team as he was with the media at his introductory press conference Wednesday, the Pistons will lead the league in coach-player communications.

What kind of team will the Pistons be?

“We’re going to be a defense-first team,” Frank replied, rattling a list off the top of his head as swiftly as if he were reading from note cards. “We’re going to be an excellent rebounding team. We’re going to be an attack team on the offensive end. We’re going to be a high-assist, low-turnover team. And we’re going to have great team spirit and unity.”

How can he coach effectively with the stigma of never having played the game hanging over his head?

“I was told a long time ago, whether you’re an All-Star, Hall-of-Fame player or a non-player, there are four traits you had to have to have success with NBA players. One is competency: You have to know your subject matter. Two is trustworthiness: Can they trust what you’re saying? Three is reliability: You’re going to be there every day. And the fourth is sincerity. I took that to heart a long time ago and, hopefully, it’s helped me along the way.”

What will he look for in assembling a coaching staff?

“The qualities we’re looking for, one is high character; two is great work ethic; three is a passion and energy you can bring every day; four is an excellent teacher; and five is a lifelong learner. Everyone we hire, regardless of names, they’re going to buy that because we have to be about what we talk about.”

How does a coach translate talk to action when players stray from the talking points?

“Any player I’ve been around – I’ve been around seven Hall of Fame players – every player wants their coach to challenge them and wants them to connect. You have to demand but you also have to be fair. With your values, it’s one thing to have them but it’s a totally different thing to enforce them. That falls on my shoulders and on the team’s shoulders.”

If the Pistons and their new coach aren’t on the same page next year, lack of communication from the top will be the least likely cause.

It was that type of clarity of vision, by all accounts, that won Frank the job over a field that was reported to have included Mike Woodson, Kelvin Sampson, Bill Laimbeer and Patrick Ewing.

“It was kind of a unanimous feeling throughout the people involved that he was by far the best candidate for the job,” Pistons president Joe Dumars said in introducing Frank. “It’s a sense of relief to have him on board with us. We all think he’s going to do a great job here.”

Among the votes that made it unanimous for Frank was that of new owner Tom Gores, who couldn’t attend Wednesday’s event but issued the following statement: “We are very excited to have Lawrence. In talking with him, not only is he a great basketball mind, but he also carries the core values that Joe and I and the Pistons organization want to represent. I look forward to Lawrence leading the team on the court and in the community.”

Those core values, Frank said, became clear to all in large measure because of the thoroughness of the coaching search. Dumars said the duration of the process that began in early June was motivated by Gores’ management team, Bob Wentworth and Phil Norment, applying the business practices they used to help make Platinum Equity, the private equity firm Gores launched 16 years ago, an industry leader.

Along the way, both sides agreed, they got better insight into each other than is typical with NBA coaching searches.

“This was an important hire,” Dumars said. “These guys have a system of how they like to do things, especially with a big hire like this. We are desperately trying to settle in to a long-term coach.”

“It was a lengthy process,” Frank said, “but looking back, I think it’s the best thing that could have happened. Typically, when they’re bang-bang decisions, you really don’t know, both parties, what you got yourselves into.

“When you talk about changing the culture, it always comes down to this: What kind of culture do you want? The culture always starts with a work ethic. In sitting down with Joe and with Tom and his group, the thing that made it so easy for us is that the philosophy, the core values, are identical.”

And then Frank sounded just like Gores did two months earlier, at his own introductory press conference, as he talked about accountability.

“It starts with investment vs. entitlement,” Frank said. “You get yourself into a lot of problems when you feel you deserve things without working for them. You have to earn your way every single day. It’s about accountability. You have to do what you say you’re going to do. The head coach has to enforce the accountability.”

Frank began the process of establishing himself as head coach, Dumars said, very early on his first day on the job.

“I know Lawrence doesn’t want me to say this, but his first day was Monday and I know he was here at 5:30 a.m. – I wasn’t, but he was. The guy was ready to work.”

The common vision they share is to field a team that eventually challenges to add to the collection of banners flying above The Palace court. Frank offered a reminder to Pistons fans frustrated by the recent past how the franchise is viewed by outsiders.

“What’s always impressed me about this organization,” he said, “when you look at the standard of excellence over the last 10 years, the numbers don’t lie. The six consecutive Eastern Conference finals appearances, making the playoffs eight of the last 10 years, the three (championship) banners – one of only five organizations to win championships.

“There is a standard of excellence here and it’s on me – it’s on all of us; we’re all in this together – to reclaim the culture that we need to establish Detroit Pistons basketball back at the forefront of the NBA.”

It’s a message his players figure to hear early and often – clearly and concisely – when training camp opens.