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Pistons close to appointing Kuester as coach

THE Detroit Pistons are close to appointing John Kuester as their new coach, a person familiar with the negotiations said yesterday.

The person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal was not done, said the contract could be completed as soon as today.

Kuester spent the past two seasons as a Cleveland Cavaliers assistant and was on Larry Brown's championship-winning staff in 2004 with the Pistons.

He was also an NBA assistant in Orlando, Philadelphia - under Brown - New Jersey and Boston. He was a head coach at George Washington University from 1985-90.

The Pistons spoke with Avery Johnson about replacing Michael Curry, but talks with the former Dallas Mavericks coach ended yesterday.

Detroit also was considering bringing back Doug Collins, a former Pistons coach, but he withdrew his name from consideration last week shortly after Curry was fired. Boston Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau was also a candidate.

The Pistons are revamping their team from a veteran-laden one to a franchise counting on players in their mid-20s.

Detroit is expected to sign free agents Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to five-year contracts Wednesday, replacing Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace.

Gordon is 26 and Villanueva turns 25 next month, potentially entering the prime of their careers, after Billups and Wallace were at their best when Detroit won the NBA title five years ago.

Detroit's fifth coach in nine seasons - following Curry, Flip Saunders, Larry Brown and Rick Carlisle - will have an interesting choice to make if the roster remains intact.

While the 208-centimeter (6-foot-11) Villanueva can slip into the depleted frontcourt, the 188-centimeter (6-3) Gordon does not seem to have a spot because he's a natural shooting guard, as is Richard Hamilton.

Gordon was voted the NBA's top reserve in 2005 and if he accepts that role again, the Pistons would have an intriguing three-guard rotation with him, Hamilton and 23-year-old Rodney Stuckey.

Gordon or Hamilton may have a problem with coming off the bench, though, and Detroit's next coach could have to deal with poor chemistry, just as Curry did.

Before the Pistons endured misery last season, they won the 2004 NBA title under Brown and came within a win of repeating with him in the middle of a six-year streak of advancing to at least the Eastern Conference finals.

That impressive run began when Carlisle, who is now Dallas' coach, was put in charge of an NBA team for the first time and it looks as if president of basketball operations Joe Dumars' rebuilding plan includes going with another inexperienced head coach.

The 54-year-old Kuester played for the Kansas City Kings, Denver and Indiana during his three-season NBA career.


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