Saunders fired by Pistons after three conference finals failures
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) ” Flip Saunders was fired as Detroit Pistons coach Tuesday, four days after his team was eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals.
President of basketball operations Joe Dumars said it’s “time for a new voice to lead our team.” Saunders had a year left on a four-year deal he signed in 2005. The decision comes three years after Saunders took over for Larry Brown, who led the Pistons to two straight NBA finals.
“Decisions like this are difficult to make, especially with the success we have had throughout the last three regular seasons,” Dumars said in a statement. “However, at this time, I feel it is necessary to make a change.”
A message left for Saunders was not immediately returned. Dumars was to speak Tuesday at the team’s practice facility.
Assistant coach Michael Curry appears to be the leading candidate to replace Saunders. Other possible candidates include Detroit assistant coach Terry Porter and former Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson.
In Saunders’ three seasons, the Pistons were 176-70 in the regular season and 30-21 in the postseason, but they lost in the Eastern Conference finals each year.
The Pistons have appeared in six straight conference finals, the first franchise to do so since the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s. But they also are the second team in league history to lose in the round before the NBA finals three years in a row, joining the Celtics from 1953-55.
Dumars decided a year ago to bring back key players who have been together since the 2004 championship season, as well as Saunders, while infusing energy with rookies and young reserves. But after the loss in Game 6 of the East finals to Boston on Friday, the likelihood of change grew.
Before coming to Detroit, Saunders was 411-326 with the Minnesota Timberwolves from 1995-05. He led them to eight straight postseason appearances ” seven first-round exits and an appearance in the 2004 conference finals. After leading Minnesota to a franchise-high 58 wins, he was fired with a 25-26 mark in the 2004-05 season.