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2008, June 4: DetNews.com – Dumars still working to ‘get it right’

August 14, 2008

 June 4, 2008 — When Joe Dumars took over the Pistons, he had one creed as team president: It's not about being right, it's about getting it right.

That's why Pistons fans shouldn't be shocked that Dumars pulled the plug on Flip Saunders on Tuesday, firing him after three seasons at the helm.

Some in NBA America are amazed that a coach who won nearly 70 percent of his regular-season games and reached the Eastern Conference finals every year was let go just days after the Pistons lost to the Boston Celtics on Friday night and failed to get back to the Finals. Saunders, of course, isn't to blame entirely for the team's failures. Think about it. The Pistons — who last went to the Finals in 2005 — were six victories away from going to the NBA Finals three years in a row. They were ousted in six games all three years.

Saunders came here to win a championship and didn't get it done. It's that simple. It doesn't make him the worst person in the world. Bobby Ross came to the Lions with the same dreams and had to quit when it was obvious he couldn't win here, either.

If you know Dumars — he's as competitive in his general manager's role as he was as a player — it wasn't a hard decision to fire Flip. Clearly, Saunders, a target for fans' criticism from the minute he got here, was given a shot.

"(Dumars is) one of the best execs in the game," ESPN NBA analyst Jalen Rose said. "He's a forward thinker, intelligent and great evaluator of talent and team architect.

"Best of all, he doesn't make long-term bad commitments to players or coaches, which is rare in pro sports, and will not carry any bad decisions."

Dumars is not without blame. He'll be the first one to tell you that it's his team and he's made all the moves — good and bad. He's never been one of those guys who pass the buck. Still, it's his job to put the pieces in place and for people to perform to the best of their ability — both coaches and players.

That now makes four coaches that Dumars has hired. George Irvine was in place when he was elevated to head coach in 2000. Dumars fired Irving after just one season. He hired Rick Carlisle and then bounced him two seasons later. Larry Brown was brought in and he took the Pistons to the Finals twice, including 2004 when they won a championship. When Brown bolted for the Knicks, Dumars tabbed Saunders.

Now, Saunders is out.

But Dumars has done the same thing with players who haven't panned out, especially those he has drafted. He shipped Mateen Cleaves, Rodney White and Darko Milicic out of town when it was clear they weren't going to be able to help his team get to that championship level.

For sure, Dumars has done a great job with the Pistons. You have to use the word great because he did get this team a championship. It would be one thing if his team never got there. And they got back the next year before losing in seven games to the Spurs in San Antonio. It proved that the Pistons didn't get to the Finals by fluke.

Since that time, Dumars has tried to do all he could to get his team, this core group, one more shot to win a second championship. He's made many moves in order to do so. The team entered the postseason with one common theme: No excuses. They honestly believed they had all the parts in place to defeat the Celts and move on to the Finals.

Dumars didn't think Saunders was right for his team any longer. His next job — getting the right coach this time — is in process.

You can reach Rob Parker at rob.parker@detnews.com.