Stan the Man

The Detroit Pistons are in need of a new president of basketball operations and head coach. Could they be bringing someone in to do both?

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Pistons are attempting to sign former Orlando Magic and Miami Heat head coach Stan Van Gundy to be their new head coach and president of basketball operations.

The report came out May 13 that the Pistons were interested in Van Gundy to run their basketball operations and also head coach. Several hours beforehand, it was reported that the Golden State Warriors were very close to hiring Van Gundy as their new head coach after firing Mark Jackson last week.

Detroit fired their first year head coach, Maurice Cheeks, only 50 games into the season, while their long time general manager and president of basketball operations, Joe Dumars, resigned in mid-April after the Pistons saw another season come and go without a playoff visit.

The Pistons are searching for their sixth head coach since 2008, and the name Van Gundy has been affiliated with the coaching search before.

When the Pistons fired Lawrence Frank in 2013, Jeff Van Gundy, Stan’s brother and NBA analyst for ESPN, bashed Joe Dumars and the organization in a radio interview with Chris Russo.

“Detroit Pistons basketball slogan: When the going gets tough, we fire the coach. These new owners in Detroit have to be exceedingly bright to have made as much money as they have. And to be duped again that your G.M. tells you that the roster is good and the coach is bad,” Jeff said. “They run through coaches and they haven’t even begun to address their problem. They have very little talent and very little basketball character. You combine that, you’re going to be in a long rebuild.”

Stan though appears to be seriously considering the Pistons’ offer, and would be an ideal candidate for their next head coach.

Van Gundy has spent time as a head coach both at the college and professional level. Since his first year as a head coach in 1983 for Castleton State College, Van Gundy has a career NBA, NCAA and NAIA combined record of 506-300.

During Van Gundy’s time in the NBA, he produced a record of 371-208 and made the playoffs six out of the seven seasons he coached, including a trip to the NBA Finals in 2009 and an overall playoff record of 48-39.

Although Van Gundy has not coached since 2011-12, he has never had a losing season and preaches defense, an area where Detroit desperately needs to improve.

This past season, Detroit gave up 104.7 points per game, the fourth worst in the league. They also allowed their opponents to shoot 47 percent from the field, which was also fourth worst in the league.

During his five years in Orlando, Van Gundy’s teams gave up an average 95.2 points per game, which would have been fourth best in the league this past season.

What makes Van Gundy such an interesting candidate for the Pistons is his history with big men. During his seven years as a head coach, Van Gundy has worked with two of the best big men in the NBA, Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard.

After resigning from his head coaching position with the Heat after 21 games in 2005, Van Gundy became the head coach of the Magic in 2007. During this time, Howard became one of the league’s best big men. That season he averaged 20.7 points per game, 14.2 rebounds per game and 2.1 blocks per game. The year before, Howard averaged 17.6 points per game, 12.3 rebounds per game and 1.9 blocks per game.

Howard was a force on the offensive side of the ball, but Van Gundy helped him become a defensive superstar. Howard won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award three consecutive times while Van Gundy was his coach, and he has yet to win that award since.

Andre Drummond, the centerpiece of the future for the Pistons, has a lot of similar qualities to Howard. Both are incredibly athletic, posses great shot blocking abilities and started off their careers with a very raw offensive skill set. Howard has progressed his offensive game tremendously over his 10-year career, but Drummond still has a lot to learn.

During Howard’s first two seasons in the NBA he averaged 13.9 points per game, 11.2 rebounds per game and slightly over one block per game in 34.7 minutes per game. In Drummond’s first two years he is averaging 10.7 points per game, 10.4 rebounds per game and the same amount of blocks per game in 26.5 minutes per game.

Drummond took on a much bigger role his second year, playing 12 more minutes per game than he did his rookie year, but still saw several minutes less per game than Howard did during his first two years.

Van Gundy was fired in 2012 after a bizarre season in Orlando that saw tension between the head coach and Howard. Reports came out saying that Van Gundy knew Howard wanted him out as the head coach, although Howard vehemently denied those reports.

O’Neal and Van Gundy have also had their moment in the spotlight when O’neal was in Miami and while Van Gundy was in Orlando.

“I’ve been there before, I’ve played for him,” O’Neal said. “I know for a fact that he’s a master of panic, and when it gets time for his team to go in the postseason and do certain things, he will let them down because of his panic.”

This is somewhat of a concern because the Pistons have had their fair share of coach and player feuds the past couple of years.

During John Kuester’s tenure as head coach, several players skipped the team’s shootaround to protest the job Kuester had done as coach. While Frank was in charge, a couple players questioned Frank’s decision making during games. Most recently, Will Bynum and Cheeks clashed when Cheeks took Bynum out of a game against the Washington Wizards and refused to put him back in.

Drummond has the potential to be a defensive player of the year and perennial all-star, and having Van Gundy coaching him would surely help him reach greatness. Van Gundy just needs to make sure he does not push Drummond away.

Fortunately, it appears one Pistons player is already embracing the idea of Van Gundy being in charge.

Van Gundy has a coaching resume that speaks for itself, but the risk in hiring him comes from the management side.

Van Gundy has never been in charge of player personnel, and that should scare the Pistons a little bit. However, Van Gundy has worked under Pat Riley and has seen first-hand the work Riley put in to being one of the league’s best executives and probably picked up a thing or two.

The Pistons are a mess right now and changes need to be made before the start of next season if they have any hope of reaching the playoffs. Van Gundy will need to figure out what to do with Josh Smith and Greg Monroe because at least one of them needs to go. There is also a chance that Van Gundy would not even have a first round pick due to the Ben Gordon trade Detroit made with Charlotte a few years ago.

Van Gundy would have a tall task ahead of him fixing the nightmare that Dumars left behind, but the ability to put together a team of your own is an opportunity most people could not pass up. It appears that the job is Van Gundy’s to lose, and according to Vincent Goodwill, a Pistons beat writer for the Detroit News, a decision should be made within the next 24-48 hours.

Executive experience would be nice for the Pistons’ next president of basketball operations, but Van Gundy brings coaching experience that fits exactly what Detroit should be looking for and no other coaching candidate can match that.

If this deal comes into fruition, Gores deserves a cookie and a medal because he got himself and the city of Detroit a slam dunk.


Cameron Billes is the host of Horsepower for Impact Sports.


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