DETROIT — Even by the Detroit Pistons’ recent standards, this was an abrupt change.
Detroit fired coach Maurice Cheeks on Sunday after less than a year as coach, with the Pistons languishing well below .500 despite offseason moves aimed at putting the struggling franchise back in contention.
Detroit is 21-29, and although the Pistons still have a decent chance to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, their new roster has performed erratically.
“This was a difficult decision for the organization to make but we needed to make a change,” team president Joe Dumars said in a statement. “We have great respect for Maurice and appreciate his hard work.”
A person with knowledge of Detroit’s plans said assistant John Loyer will take over as interim coach. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team had not announced an interim coach yet.
The Pistons haven’t made the playoffs since being swept in the first round in 2009 — in Michael Curry’s only season as their coach. Since then, Detroit has gone through two seasons under John Kuester and two under Lawrence Frank.
After neither of them could make any real progress, Cheeks was brought in as Detroit’s ninth coach since the 1999-2000 season.
In addition to hiring Cheeks last offseason, Detroit signed forward Josh Smith and traded for point guard Brandon Jennings, trying to bolster a roster that already included young big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.
But the mix has been uninspiring for the most part. The Pistons have had problems defensively and have struggled to close out games in the fourth quarter.
The poor attendance that’s become commonplace at The Palace hasn’t really improved — and Detroit’s 11-15 home record hasn’t helped.
“Our record does not reflect our talent and we simply need a change,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said Sunday. “We have not made the kind of progress that we should have over the first half of the season. This is a young team and we knew there would be growing pains, but we can be patient only as long as there is progress.”
Cheeks previously coached Portland and Philadelphia, a team he won an NBA title with as a point guard. The Pistons gave him his third shot to be an NBA head coach in June.