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Pistons fire Flip, former Eagle Curry on top of the list for Detroit job
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Detroit Pistons assistant coaches Terry Porter, left, and Michael Curry, right, shout from the bench in the second half of Game 1 of a second-round NBA playoff basketball series against the Orlando Magic on May 3, 2008, in Auburn Hills, Mich. Both are possible candidates to replace fired Detroit coach Flip Saunders. Curry, a former Georgia Southern Eagle, was also the head of the NBA Players Association for four years. - photo by Associated Press
    AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Flip Saunders was fired as the Pistons’ coach Tuesday, four days after Detroit was eliminated from the playoffs by the Boston Celtics. And more changes could be on the way for a team bounced from three straight conference finals.
    ‘‘Make no mistake, everybody is in play right now,’’ said Joe Dumars, the Pistons’ president of basketball operations. ‘‘There are no sacred cows here. You lose that sacred cow status when you lose three straight years.’’
    Saunders had a year left on a four-year deal he signed in 2005. His ouster comes three years after he took over for Larry Brown, who led the Pistons to two straight NBA finals.
    ‘‘I think this team became way too content and did not show up with a sense of urgency to get it done,’’ Dumars said at a news conference. ‘‘I can’t sugarcoat it. It is what it is.’’
    Dumars stopped short of saying he would dismantle the Pistons.
    ‘‘The idea you can make yourself bad and make your  self good again, that’s a farce,’’ he said. ‘‘I have no interest in completely ripping the team down. Will I look to making significant changes? Yeah, you’re damn right I will.’’
    A message seeking comment was left for Saunders on Tuesday.
    Assistant coach Michael Curry — a former Georgia Southern Eagle — appears to be the leading candidate to replace Saunders. Other possible candidates include Detroit assistant Terry Porter and former Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson.
    ‘‘We’re going to talk to people this week. This will not be a long, drawn-out process,’’ Dumars said about a replacement for Saunders. ‘‘The next coach is going to be handed a good team. You worry more when you don’t have the players to compete at the level you need them to.’’
    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 Eastern Conference 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.