Joe D: Frank has ‘Great Presence’

Even under weight of rocky start, Pistons coach won’t budge on principles

Lawrence Frank's focus, knowledge and temperament have contributed greatly to the Pistons' progress.
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Joe Dumars remarked when he hired Lawrence Frank that the unusual circumstances of the NBA summer at least gave him the luxury of getting to know his next head coach to a degree that hadn’t been possible in any previous search. As the lockout dragged into late November, he got even more familiar with Frank through the near-daily in-depth exchanges they had on basketball at large and the Pistons specifically.

One of the things they both believed was the necessity for a ground-floor-up immersion in basketball fundamentals for the Pistons.

“We had many conversations before the lockout was over about just how much this group needed a foundation of fundamentals built, rebuilt,” Dumars said. “The accountability that each guy needed that even when things get rough – and they’re going to get rough at times – we can’t waver from that. We’ve got to build this foundation to sustain it long term, so that’s why I say we’ll take our lumps right now and that’s fine. But we’re building a foundation that’s going to last a long time. Right now we’re taking our lumps, but we’ll be OK.”

As well as Dumars came to understand Frank during the hiring process, which stretched out over several weeks and included many late-night phone conversations in addition to two formal interviews, there are some things a president or general manager can’t know about his coach until he has a team in front of him. The way he communicates with them on a daily basis, the way he commands a room, the way he prepares and executes a practice and the way he handles the chaos that can often ensue once the ball is tipped off – turning all of the endless preparation on its ear.

“He has great presence about himself when he steps on the court with his players or in the huddle or in the locker room,” Dumars said. “Guys respect that. As a head coach, you better have some kind of presence. He has that. He does a great job with it. He’s worked on it. Lawrence is not walking out there not prepared. He’s thought about what he wants to say, he’s going over things he needs to touch on and he does it with a strong presence. Your players have got to know you have a strong presence and also have to know you know your business like no other and they know that about him.”

As the season has begun to unfold and losses have mounted, Dumars has learned even more about Frank. All those things he talked about before camp opened, all the issues he made priorities with his team on Dec. 9 when they were finally allowed to assemble, are still the things he’s emphasizing today. He hasn’t let the 4-13 record deter him. While Frank maintains an open mind about the rotation and the playbook and the status of players as their performance dictates, he hasn’t flinched in insisting on daily homage to his building blocks.

“It’s a tough start, but you learn a lot about people during some tough times,” Dumars said. “What I really like is that Lawrence has not wavered in his commitment, in his approach, in his principles of what he’s teaching. That’s really the true mark right there. A coach has to have enough discipline to stick to his core principles, tweak things as you go forward, but not get away from who you want to be.

“He’s going to teach defense first, he’s going to teach accountability, he’s going to teach sharing the ball and he’s not going to get off of that. You can’t get away from those things and start trying something outside of playing good defense, being accountable and sharing the ball on offense. You have to have those things. He hasn’t gotten off of those things.”