Pistons get it 1/2 right with Stan Van Gundy

Van Gundy is accomplished coach, but lacks front office experience


DETROIT – The immediate reaction was mixed - at best.

Some Piston fans cheered Stan Van Gundy's hiring as new team president and coach. Others were disappointed in the selection of Van Gundy.

Either way, Van Gundy is here. The Pistons announced his hiring officially at a Thursday afternoon news conference at The Palace. Van Gundy signed a new five-year, $35-million deal to do both jobs in Motown.

As a coach, most won't argue over Van Gundy's accomplishments. He piled up wins as coach of the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. In fact, he never had a losing season in eight full seasons. He even guided the Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009.

The problem for most, however, is that he has no front office experience. That's the rub.

And it's a real reason why his selection for both jobs is set up to be a mess.

Owner Tom Gores -- who bounced Mo Cheeks as coach after 50 games last season and accepted Joe Dumars' resignation as President of Basketball Operations after the season -- appears to have just gotten lazy here.

Instead of finding a smart, experienced person to build this organization back to a championship level, he did the easy thing.

Gores simply rolled the dice. Gores went for hope over experience.

The Pistons, though, shouldn't be a training ground for a newbie President of Basketball Operations. It's a really tough gig.

The Pistons need to get their roster in order, make changes, and get this team back on a path to the playoffs, somewhere they haven't been in six seasons. 

Despite criticism from some abound NBA America about this setup, Gores said he likes the dual role for Van Gundy. "I've always liked the model of connecting the floor with the front office," Gores said.


To his credit, Gores acknowledged that Van Gundy will have his hands full.

"I want to thank you for taking this on," Gores told Van Gundy. "It's a tough job. And you have two jobs. You are one of the few guys that have both and one of the few who can do both."

Gores said he was impressed with Van Gundy's interview because it went 6 1/2 hours and Van Gundy showed up with a plan at turning this once-proud franchise around.

"I'm really honored and humbled," Van Gundy said when he was introduced, citing three things that lured him from Central Florida to Detroit for his first NBA job in two years.

First, Van Gundy said he was excited about the commitment from Gores and the ownership group.

Second, he wanted both jobs. Van Gundy said he saw how well that worked in Miami when Pat Riley have both gigs. "There are tremendous advantage with doing both jobs," Van Gundy said.

Lastly, it was the Pistons' tradition. "I intend to work hard every day to uphold the legacy here," he said. "I'm excited to be here."

The first question posed to Van Gundy was of course about the power of running the organization. He was asked if that was what made him accept the gig.

"The allure of power?," Van Gundy said. "It really doesn't have anything to do with it."

Van Gundy said the disconnect between front office and coaching is a big problem in the NBA.

Van Gundy will be the third person with an NBA franchise that has both jobs. San Antonio and the L.A. Clippers are the other two.

Hence, Van Gundy was asked why he believes he's qualified.

"I've worked in an organization that used this model," he said. "I think I know what it takes to be successful," he said.

But Van Gundy was also quick to say he will need help. He will probably hired a GM to do the day-to-day stuff.

"The key is you go out and get great people," Van Gundy said.

There's one red flag you can't ignore with Van Gundy the coach. He had run-ins with star players, including Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard. This will be interesting to watch now that he is the main man, not just the coach.

"You need one voice and everybody on the page," Van Gundy said. "We have a chance of one voice."

Still, chances of this working for the Pistons is mixed -- at best.