Puzzle Pieces

Varied backgrounds is Frank’s goal in piecing staff together

Lawrence Frank has interviewed 31 candidates and is close to finalizing his coaching staff.
Christian Petersen (NBAE/Getty Images)
During the process that led to Lawrence Frank being hired as Pistons coach, Tom Gores and Joe Dumars told him he would have the latitude to hire his own staff but they had one stipulation: that Frank be as diligent in the search as they had been in identifying him as successor to John Kuester.

It probably wasn’t a stipulation the new Pistons owner and team president needed to make. Lawrence Frank is nothing if not thorough.

He’s talked to 31 coaches and says the process is close to completion, though he still won’t put a timetable on the unveiling of the new staff. He wants to get it right and he’s mindful of the chemistry that will result, so one commitment might affect the ensuing offer to the next candidate. What he didn’t want, he decided, was a staff filled with coaches cut from the same cloth.

“I want our staff to embrace our core values, but I want different backgrounds,” he told me Thursday. “I don’t want five of one guy. So you’re going to see a staff of different backgrounds, different experiences and then we bring it all together. If you have five of the same type of guy, to me that’s not effective.”

Some of the 31 interviews Frank conducted consisted of phone calls only. If a candidate passed that test, he wanted more to go on. So they were flown in to Detroit and did on-court work so Frank could get deeper insight. With no NBA players allowed to participate or enter team facilities, that meant Frank had to improvise and recruit front-office staffers as subject matter.

“My interview process is a little different than others,” he said. “I want to see them work on the court. I want to see guys teach. I want to see their passion. I want to see their enthusiasm level. I want to see if they can get their point across quickly in bullet points and not be long-winded. I want to see if they can show it themselves.

“I thought it was a great exercise. When I met with Joe and Tom, they said, ‘Look, you’re going to hire your own staff, but we want you to be true to the process and be thorough and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Taking all those things into account, we’ve whittled it down and we’re getting very close to coming to a conclusion.”

Frank is coming to the Pistons off a season where Doc Rivers gave him autonomy in running Boston’s defense. Frank isn’t philosophically opposed to a similar structure, but it won’t be employed for the 2011-12 season. Because he’s a coach with a new team, he felt it critical that his be the prominent voice at both ends.

“Your team and your audience dictate what’s needed, but with the situation here, I’m going to give a lot of responsibility to my assistants and hold them accountable for it,” he said. “But I think it’s crucial that the team understands what I stand for and what I’m about. The accountability starts with me. I’m going to have an extremely qualified staff that will have very distinct roles and responsibilities for every guy and every guy is going to bring great value and have an impact on our team.”

How those roles are defined will be determined by the final makeup of the staff, but Frank expects that it won’t be structured so that every coach is expected to coach both offense and defense, or both big men and perimeter players. That was the philosophy of Michael Curry, who wanted all staff members versed in all phases, and largely that of Kuester, as well.

“I want people of high character, compassionate, can teach the game, lifelong learners, but I want different backgrounds,” Frank said. “I know who I am. I know my strengths and weaknesses. I want to compensate for them.”