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Pistons fire head coach Maurice Cheeks, appoint John Loyer as interim

Maurice Cheeks The Pistons have fired Maurice Cheeks just 50 games into his tenure. (Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images)

The Detroit Pistons have fired head coach Maurice Cheeks just 50 games into his first season as the team's head coach. The news was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Cheeks was hired by Detroit just this past offseason, but was shown the door after a disappointing 21-29. The Pistons currently sit a half-game out of the playoffs and have struggled this season despite the offseason acquisitions of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings.

“This was a difficult decision for the organization to make but we needed to make a change,” said President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars in a statement. “We have great respect for Maurice and appreciate his hard work.”

Detroit assistant John Loyer will step in as interim coach, MLive.com reports. Loyer has not previously held a head coaching position, but has served as an assistant coach for the Blazers, Sixers, and Nets since 2000. He joined the Pistons in 2011.

According to SI.com's Chris Mannix, the decision to fire Cheeks wasn't Dumars' decision.

Strangely, Cheeks' dismissal comes after the Pistons notched back-to-back wins over the weekend against the Nets and Nuggets, yet the recent turn  for the better wasn't enough to convince the Pistons to keep Cheeks aboard.

“Our record does not reflect our talent and we simply need a change,” said Pistons owner Tom Gores in the team's release. “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. The responsibility does not fall squarely on any one individual, but right now this change is a necessary step toward turning this thing around. I still have a lot of hope for this season and I expect our players to step up. I respect and appreciate Maurice Cheeks and thank him for his efforts; we just require a different approach.”

Detroit's most glaring issue this season has been its defense, which ranks No. 19 in defensive efficiency, according to nba.com/stats, despite the mammoth frontcourt of Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. The team's offense also ranks below league average and features a starting backcourt of guards shooting below 40 percent.

But to Cheeks' credit, the Pistons had been playing better of late, winning four of their last six and posting the fourth-best net rating in the league (7.5) since Jan. 28. Detroit also boasts the youngest starting lineup in the league and has a better record than the Pistons did at this time last season (18-32).

Detroit's firing of Cheeks appeared to surprise several Pistons players, who voiced their shock on Twitter:

Cheeks was the eighth head coach to serve under Joe Dumars during his tenure as Pistons GM and fifth since 2008. The ninth reportedly could be former Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, who Sam Amick of USA Today reports has interest in the job.

The Pistons were Cheeks' third crack at an NBA head coach position, but it ended the same way his first two did: a midseason dismissal. Cheeks spent three-plus years with the Blazers from 2001 to 2005 and three-plus with the Sixers from 2005 to 2009. Cheeks now owns a career coaching record of 305-315 (.491).

Cheeks, 57, was a four-time All-Star as a player and a member of the title-winning 1983 Sixers. A four-time All-Defensive First Team selection, Cheeks retired after 15 seasons with the Sixers, Spurs, Knicks, Hawks and Nets with career averages of 11.1 points, 6.7 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game.

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