The Pistons made it official Wednesday morning — Stan Van Gundy is running the franchise.
Van Gundy was named head coach and president of basketball operations, meaning he will be in charge both on and off the court. That’s a huge difference from how the team was run in the past, where Joe Dumars was in charge of building the roster, but left game decisions to his head coach.
Pistons owner Tom Gores, though, was impressed enough by Van Gundy to give him both jobs, even though the 54-year-old has no front-office experience.
"Stan is a proven winner in our league," Gores said in a statement. "He instills his teams with passion, purpose and toughness. He is a great teacher who will help our players grow and develop. Stan is more than just a great coach, he’s a great leader. What I’m most excited about is how Stan can help us shape the franchise and instill what it means to be the best.
"He’s also a great communicator. My time with Stan has me convinced that he will bring our players, team and community to a very proud place."
It is an honor to be chosen to help Tom Gores build the Pistons into a team that competes for championships.
Stan Van Gundy
As a coach, Van Gundy brings the best resume of any Pistons coach since Larry Brown. He’s reached the playoffs in each of his seven full seasons, and the only time he has been dismissed during a season was during the 2005-06 season, when Pat Riley controversially moved back to the bench from the front office just in time to lead the Heat to an NBA title.
"It is an honor to be chosen to help Tom Gores build the Pistons into a team that competes for championships," said Van Gundy in the same statement. "Tom’s vision of building for the future, while seeking immediate improvement is a challenge that I embrace. We will work to put a team on the floor that reflects the franchise’s rich tradition and embodies the toughness and work ethic of fans in the Detroit area."
The move should be huge for the career of Andre Drummond. Not only did Van Gundy coach Shaquille O’Neal in Miami, but he was the one who turned Dwight Howard into a star. Drummond has already put up numbers that no one has achieved since Howard, and with Van Gundy helping him with the defensive side of the game, it is easy to see a future where he quickly becomes an All-Star and a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
On the other hand, Van Gundy’s history as a disciplinarian and the effort he demands from his players might be a problem for the two Pistons that were brought in as Dumars’ last big moves. Van Gundy has been willing to clash publicly with players like Dwyane Wade, O’Neal and Howard, and isn’t likely to sit by quietly while Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith stop moving the ball and fire at will late in games. Smith is likely to draw Van Gundy’s ire if he continues to insist on shooting 3-pointers, given his historically bad shooting percentages.
As the team president, Van Gundy’s biggest decision will certainly be Greg Monroe. Monroe is a restricted free agent, and is widely expected to be signed to a massive offer sheet by a team looking for a young big man who puts up double-doubles on a regular basis.
That means that Van Gundy will either have to match the offer, which will have serious cap ramifications for the Pistons when added to Smith’s huge contract, or let Monroe walk. While it is hard to lose a 25-year-old player with Monroe’s skills, the wisest move might be to try to work a sign-and-trade with an interested team in order to get some of the perimeter shooting that the roster desperately lacks.
That would also seem logical for Van Gundy as a coach, because his best teams have traditionally used 3-point shooters to surround O’Neal or Howard. That plan doesn’t work with the current roster, which doesn’t have any consistent outside threats, but is overloaded with high-profile post players. Using Monroe to get shooters, while risky, would help Van Gundy start the process of building a team in his image.
Smith isn’t a good fit, either, but he could still be an asset, especially if Monroe leaves. In Atlanta, Smith was one of the better defensive power forwards in basketball, and if he can be convinced to stop shooting jumpers, he could give Detroit one of the Eastern Conference’s best post defenses.
Jennings would also have to adjust his game to be more of a distributor, as he often is early in games, and stop trying to win games on his own down the stretch. If he can do that, and work harder on defense, he’s another player that could take a step forward under Van Gundy.
There’s no question that Van Gundy can coach. That’s the reason that Golden State was willing to put him in charge of a team that boasts much more talent than the current Pistons roster.
In Detroit, though, he’ll have to prove that he can build a team as well as he can coach one. The answer to the question is going to be the biggest factor in the future of the franchise over the next several years.