The Golden State Warriors, who recently fired head coach Mark Jackson after a first round playoff defeat to the Clippers, were reportedly on the verge of hiring former Heat and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy before a disagreement over how much say he would get in basketball operations. Van Gundy wanted full control of the team, in terms of personnel decisions, but Golden State resisted and the Detroit Pistons, who fired coach Maurice Cheeks in February, swooped in and hired Van Gundy to a five-year deal, naming him both head coach and president of basketball operations.
This deal with the Pistons gave Van Gundy both of the things he wanted: a new head-coaching job and institutional control. Of course, Detroit still may hire a general manager to ease some of the workload off its new coach, but it is clear that the outspoken Stan Van, whose latest coaching foray with the Orlando Magic ended the same season as Dwight Howard’s tenure with the team as the two definitely had their differences, would have the final say on all decisions.
Regardless of his past coaching jobs or possible inefficiencies, the move brings some stability to the Pistons’ front office, which seems to never be existent anymore, as the team has now had 14 different coaches since the 1992 season, the first year Bad Boys coach Chuck Daly was no longer at the helm of the team. Stan Van Gundy is a loud and proud type of coach who won’t stand for failure and losing, which was a questionable trait in recent Pistons coaches.
However, he still has to deal with the Pistons’ mess of a roster, which seems to have a bunch of good, individual pieces that just do not fit well with one another.
The mega-signing of Josh Smith to an enormously lucrative four-year deal last offseason was a disaster and probable best player and 23-year-old budding star Greg Monroe is a free agent, adding to the horror. Also, none of the three rookies Detroit drafted last season — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell, and Peyton Siva — amounted to much, as the 8th-overall pick Pope was the only one to get significant playing time and posted a very poor 9.5 PER.
The summer point guard trade of Brandon Knight to the Bucks for Brandon Jennings turned out to be a dud as well, which leaves the Pistons with many more questions heading into the 2014-15 season than answers. That is going to be the case for any team that goes 29-53, but it is especially prevalent for a team that has been pretty awful for a few years now, with relatively no signs of improvement.
Hiring Van Gundy puts them in the right direction, even if Monroe decides to sign elsewhere this offseason, because there probably is not a better candidate on the open market to teach shot selection to Josh Smith, an actual offensive system to Jennings, and teach Pope, Mitchell, and Siva the ways of the league better.
Detroit is also sitting on a potential superstar in the 20-year-old Andre Drummond, who put up 13.5 points and 13.2 rebounds in 32.3 minutes of 81 games in his sophomore season. He is so raw physically that even a great year like that is soon to be blown by by the Georgetown grad, who is primed for an insane campaign next season, especially if Monroe bolts in free agency.
Stan Van Gundy is no magic worker, though, and the Pistons still may not make the playoffs next season.
But upper management and principal owner Tom Gores need to show some patience with this coach, a trait they have not expressed with any of their past few coaches.
Van Gundy is a smart coach and player motivator, who has demonstrated that he can get the most out of his guys, even in undesirable situations such as the Dwightmare in Orlando. As long as the Pistons draft smart in June’s draft with their lottery pick and continue to do in future years, they’ll get back on the right track soon enough and they’ve finally found the coach who can help them do that.