Casey signed a five-year deal with the Pistons in 2018 after they parted with head coach and team president Stan Van Gundy. This was a partnership that — thanks in large part to the impossibility of conducting both parts of the dual role — was doomed from the start.
The Detroit Pistons affirmed their commitment to head coach Dwane Casey on Wednesday, extending his contract. Here’s why it’s a huge win for the franchise.
Dwane Casey was hired by the Pistons in the post-Van Gundy era to return the franchise to its former glory, or at least to perennial playoff contention. It was a roster loaded with aging veterans like Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson, and aside from Luke Kennard, not a whole lot of youth with upside.
The Pistons did make the NBA playoffs in 2018-19 thanks to Herculean efforts from Griffin but were swiftly excised from the postseason by the Milwaukee Bucks.
In 2019-20, the Pistons added Derrick Rose and Markieff Morris via free agency to a roster that had made the playoffs, and it seemed as though maybe a second postseason run was in store. After all, Griffin had perhaps the best season of his career and the oft-injured Jackson had even played all 82 games, so there was a fair amount of reasonable optimism.
As we know now, Griffin never fully recovered from the knee injury that interrupted his season and playoffs, and Jackson missed most of the season with a stress fracture in his lower back. Rose was outstanding when he played but as he was forced into more and more action, his body broke down and he missed much of the last month before the season was suspended due to COVID-19.
Luke Kennard was out for the final couple of months as well, short-circuiting an encouraging start to his season, and Dwane Casey found himself shepherding a team full of two-way players and short-term free-agent signees into the COVID hiatus.
In spite of that, every young player on the roster showed progress. Bruce Brown turned into at least a serviceable shooter after being a complete zero on offense in his rookie season. Kennard took steps as a playmaker in his short time on the floor. Christian Wood went from an end-of-the-bench roster-filler to being a fringe star, and growing as a man as well.
This season, Casey has been handed a roster absolutely littered with rookies and reclamation projects, and in spite of a 20-50 record (which has been roster-manipulated perfectly to avoid winning too many games), the youngsters have shown promise and progress across the board.
Obviously, you can’t give the head coach all the credit when your youngsters develop, but coming off the Stan Van Gundy era where literally none of the Pistons’ young players got better, the difference is stark.
Dwane Casey was hired by the Detroit Pistons to forge a winner with the players he already had in 2018, but things didn’t work out as planned. Instead, he’s put his development chops to use and has been the perfect man for the job that being the head coach of the Pistons in this era requires.