The Detroit Pistons are a mess. Joe Dumars is a franchise legend, and his shrewd managerial skills brought Detroit the 2004 NBA title. In spite of this, however, he definitely needed to go this off-season. He was left with a win now mandate by new owner Tom Gores which is always the wrong thing to do since it encourages a GM to make ridiculous short terms moves to try and save his job, but Gores wanted, and needed, a way to cut bate with Dumars cleanly. In response Dumars, predictably, made a lot of desperate moves in response.
He brought in Maurice Cheeks (a borderline Hall of Fame caliber player as a point guard) as a coach, presumable to groom 2011 lottery pick Brandon Knight and help him finally reach his potential as a point guard. Then he promptly flipped Knight in a trade with the Bucks for Brandon Jennings… soooo you traded the much higher ceiling Knight, for whom you JUST handpicked a coach, and traded him for the better (for now) guard with a much lower ceiling in Jennings.
Then you brought in Joe Smith in free agency which sounds great on paper until you see the log jam Detroit’s anti-spacing glut of big men created in the Motor City. However, even this wouldn’t have been so bad when you consider that the Memphis Grizzlies had just fired their coach, Lionel Hollins, that off-season. Hollins is the coach who made Memphis’s spacing issues and overabundance of big men work to the tune of 4 consecutive playoff appearances and 3 series wins… including a trip to the Western Conference finals is 2012-13. Might have been a good coach to bring in to coach Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe (in a contract year), and Josh Smith, no? But oh wait… we hired a coach to groom the point guard we were going to trade. Got it.
So long story short, Dumars, partly of his own doing and a little bit because of the win now mandate he was saddled with, has left this team a mess. I had no clue how the team was going to move this off-season to try to fix things, but I wasn’t especially confident. I was hoping we’d go for Hollins as coach (which we should have done last year in the first place) and was just praying we would bring in ANYONE except Isiah Thomas to run the front office. Isiah will always be a Piston’s legend, and honestly I wouldn’t mind if Gores let him pull a Magic Johnson, grab a little corner of the Pistons ownership pie, and have a little bit of input with the franchise, but his stay in New York taught us he is anything BUT a good GM. He was one of the five worst GMs of all time.
However, it seemed fairly likely and somewhat reasonable to think they team would go for Hollins on the court and Isiah in the front office this off season. The main reason being this team needed a new face of the franchise. Drummond is so young that I don’t want to put that weight on him, and no other player on the roster warrants that kind of status. Things had gotten so bad that Dumars was the face of the Pistons the last few years, and Detroit now needed to fill the void. This is why the rumors were yet again flying of bringing in Tom Izzo and handing him the triple title of President of Basketball Operations, GM, AND Coach. Now, I love Izzo as a college coach but this would have been an absolute disaster. At least a guy like John Calipari has NBA experience. Izzo is 59, and has 0 NBA experience. I would have been worried to give him the coaching job, let alone full control of the team. So with this possibility dangling on the table I would have been a lot more confident with Hollins, a proven winner with this type of roster (although no Marc Gasol would hurt Hollins’ and the Pistons’ chance of reproducing what Memphis has) as coach and Isiah *shudder* filling both the GM (hopefully with Gores and Hollins keeping his stupidity in check) and face of the franchise roles.
With all these things staring me in the face, then, I was ecstatic to hear we were bringing in Van Gundy. I got a little scared to hear we had given him so much control over the team when he too is untested in this arena. However, as a coach he is far and away better than anything I could have expected. This guy is way out of Detroit’s league of who they would have been able to get as their second target. Everyone knows how Pat Riley swooped down to steal Stan Van’s 2006 title victory. That was unfair enough considering it was Stan Van Gundy who kept that ship afloat before the Shaq trade. Stan still didn’t have any luck at his next stop either when the 6’10” 260lbs infant that is Dwight Howard decided he didn’t like trying hard, got his coach (SVG) fired, and then promptly left the franchise. Serves Orlando right anyway… HOWEVER before the Howard hissy fit Stan Van took the Magic in a Cinderella run to the NBA finals.
So the guy knows what he’s doing as a coach, and considering the current state of Deeeeeeeeetrooooooooit Baaaaaasketbaaaaaaaall he was waaaaaaay out of our league. As a coach this is beyond my wildest dreams for the off-season. If anyone is going to figure out how this mess (talent laden but a mess) could work, its Stan Van Gundy. The only fear, then, is with this President of Basketball Operations role. Stan is completely untested in this capacity, but honestly the only way for us to get Stan the Coach was to hire his buddy Stan the President and I’m fine with that. Someone who has as acute a basketball mind as Stan will figure this out. It was beyond gut wrenching to lose our lottery pick last night so that Cleveland could get their 3rd #1 pick in 4 years and 4th consecutive top 4 pick, but from now on I’m all in with the mantra of “in Stan we trust.”
Simply put there is a lot of talent on this roster. There is a lot of materiel to work with. I don’t know if Stan will be trading some guys to move pieces around, simply letting some guys walk, developing the guys we have or just cleaning house, and I really don’t care. I’m not staring into the abyss of an Isiah Thomas as GM era and if that means having the unproven SVG picking our assets then so be it. And in any event, I wholeheartedly approve of Stan the President’s first off-season move… bringing in Stan the Coach.