Greg Eno

Archive for the ‘Dave Bing’ Category

Coach Dave Bing? The Pistons Chose Not To, Back In ’79

In Dave Bing, Michael Curry, Pistons on June 9, 2008 at 2:48 pm

The Pistons didn’t want David Bing. The fans didn’t, either — even the ones who had heard of him. To them, anyone was sloppy seconds if the team couldn’t get Snazzy Cazzie Russell.

The Pistons lost a coin toss in 1966, a toss that would have given them the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft — a pick they would have used on Russell, the talented gem from the University of Michigan. But the coin didn’t come up right, so the New York Knicks got Russell, and the Pistons were left with Bing, the smooth guard from Syracuse. The Pistons felt slugged in the gut. They dreamed of box office success, if nothing else, with Russell playing for them. One night at Cobo Arena, Russell still in college, the few thousand fans at that evening’s Pistons game rose to their feet and went crazy as they saw the Michigan senior walking to a seat, a guest of the Pistons for the night. EVERYONE drooled at the thought of Cazzie Russell as a Piston.

The Pistons got Bing, and he eventually went from sloppy seconds to being beloved in Detroit. He, along with Bob Lanier, turned the team into contenders and playoff visitors.

In 1979, Bing could have changed the fortune of the Pistons yet again, but unlike when he was drafted, this time he wasn’t given the opportunity.

The Pistons had fired Dick Vitale and were looking for another coach. The job was given, by default, to assistant Richie Adubato in one of those interim deals.

Dave Bing had an idea.

What if he, Bing, stepped into the coach’s chair? What if he was the one to return the Pistons back to respectability after the clowning achievements of Vitale? Bing was 34, not quite two years removed as a player himself. He had the hunger. He wasn’t yet a steel magnate and civic leader. Basketball was still his first love and interest.

Bing as the unwanted senior from Syracuse, circa 1966

So Bing wasn’t shy about letting the TV people and sports columnists around town know that he was interested in becoming the Pistons’ next coach. It was a tactic that had worked so well for Vitale in the spring of 1978, when he launched a marketing campaign at the behest of some of the journalists in town.

Maybe owner Bill Davidson was once bitten and twice shy about such campaigns. Perhaps he was still sore at Bing for a contract holdout in 1974 that led to his eventual trade to Washington in 1975. Whatever the reason, despite the swelling of support for Bing as Pistons coach, Davidson would have none of it. He never gave Bing even a sniff. No interview. No returning of phone calls. Nothing.

Adubato finished out the 16-66 year and was replaced by Scotty Robertson.

The Pistons today, if you believe the rumors, are set to hire Michael Curry as their next head coach. Perhaps an announcement will come no later than Wednesday. Curry, like Bing in 1979, is not far removed as a player. The Pistons have tried this before, when they hired Ray Scott not long after Ray retired, back in 1972. And Ray was a pretty good coach here. They didn’t try it with Bing, though — and haven’t gone to the “recently retired as a player” well since Scott, in fact. Lately, the Pistons have latched onto high-profile coaching veterans whose playing days were in college, and when the shorts were tight and the socks droopy. Doug Collins and Rick Carlisle were former NBA players, but not for quite some time when the Pistons hired them as coaches.

It’s futile yet intriguing to wonder how the Pistons’ fortunes would have gone had Bing been hired as coach in 1979. Robertson was fired after three seasons, replaced by Chuck Daly. That ended up working out pretty well, if you recall. But would Bing have been fired after three seasons? Would he have accelerated the rebuilding process faster than Robertson, thus earning more time? Would there even have BEEN a Chuck Daly Era in Detroit?

We’ll never know, of course. Then again, maybe Bing wouldn’t have become the business and socio-economic leader that he turned out to be, either. So maybe it was for the best, after all.

Statues Of Bing, Lanier Overdue At Palace (Or Cobo)

In Bob Lanier, Dave Bing, MSHOF, NBA, Ray Scott on June 22, 2007 at 4:42 pm

Next Thursday, NBA folks will gather inside David Stern’s big top and hold the 2007 draft. The #1 overall pick will probably be the man-child Greg Oden, from Ohio State. Number two will likely be the other man-child, Kevin Durant from Texas. Slight chance it could be flip-flopped, but doubtful.

Nowadays, the order of drafting is determined by powerballs sucked thru a tube. The NBA lottery. The non-playoff teams get assigned a certain amount of powerballs, supposedly weighted so that the weaker teams have a greater chance of their, ahem, balls being sucked thru the tube. It all sounds rather obscene, but there you have it.

Back in the day, they used a different kind of a lottery. It was called a coin flip.

The Pistons and the Knicks were involved in such a game of chance, way back in 1966. At stake was the selection, #1 overall, of the pearl known as Cazzie Russell, who played at Michigan. The Pistons wanted Cazzie. Cazzie wanted the Pistons. Just the year before, the NBA had abandoned the old territorial pick, which enabled teams to choose one player from their geographic region without fear of that player being selected by anyone else. Had Cazzie Russell been available in 1965, he would have gone to the Pistons — no ifs, ands, or buts. And no coin flips.

The Pistons lost that coin flip in 1966. Or so they thought. The Knicks chose Russell, as expected.

The Pistons ended up with the consolation prize — othwerwise known as David Bing, the guard from Syracuse.

Guess who “won,” after all?

I bring up Bing, not only because of the upcoming draft, but also because I’d like to add to the Pistons’ to-do list this summer.

Plans should be underway — terribly overdue, by the way — to erect a statue of Bing in one of the main concourses of the Palace. Or maybe it would be more appropriately placed in the Cobo Convention Center, not far from the bust of former mayor Albert Cobo. Regardless, it needs to go up, and sooner rather than later. For if it wasn’t for Bing, there’s no guarantee that the Pistons would even have remained in Detroit, let alone them becoming three-time NBA champions in Motown.

Bing (left) and Lanier: they should have a date with bronze

While they’re at it, they might as well build one in Bob Lanier’s likeness, too. Lanier came along in 1970, and with Bing he helped bring the Pistons into the previously unexplored realm of respectability. The 1973-74 team won 52 games, to show you. And it took an angry, bitter, seven-game series loss to the Chicago Bulls to keep them from a possible berth in the Finals.

Bing was grace on the court, with a deadeye shot and slithering drives to the hoop. Lanier was the first great big man the Pistons ever employed. Maybe the only one, with apologies to Bill Laimbeer and Ben Wallace.

Both Bing and Lanier have been noteworthy citizens in their post-NBA playing careers. Bing, for a time, was considered a viable option as Detroit’s mayor. His investment in the city — both financially and emotionally — has been grossly overlooked by the folks in this town. Lanier now works for the NBA as a sort of missionary and orator — giving back to the youth around the world.

Of course, both have their numbers retired and raised to the Palace rafters. But that’s not good enough. You have to crane your neck to see them, first of all. Reminders of Bing and Lanier’s contribution to the Pistons franchise should hit fans square between the eyes as soon as they walk into the building. Or put the statues outside, if that suits your fancy.

By the way, tonight their old coach, Ray Scott, will receive a Brown Bomber jacket in a ceremony at Cobo, honoring him as part of the culmination of a week-long worth of activities celebrating Joe Louis’s becoming world heavyweight boxing champ some 70 years ago. Scott is also a recently-announced member of the Class of 2007 of the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.

That’s an overdue thing, too.