Pistons Hiring Stan Van Gundy
The Detroit Pistons have been aimless since the 2007-08 season when they went 59-23 and lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Boston Celtics. Back then, players like Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace were still in Detroit, and Flip Saunders was the coach.
After that season, the Pistons fired Flip Saunders and team president Joe Dumars traded Billups and Antonio McDyess to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson. Michael Curry took over as coach, and in the 2008-09 season, the Pistons went 39-43 and lost in the first round of the playoffs after three years of making it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Since removing Saunders, the Pistons have gone through coaches on what seems like a yearly basis. The list includes Michael Curry, John Kuester, Lawrence Frank, Maurice Cheeks and John Loyer. Between the coaching carousel and the confusing roster moves, there has been little stability in Detroit.
The team seems to have acknowledged this and are now moving in a new direction. Dumars was removed, and the team hired Stan Van Gundy as both the new head coach and president of basketball operations.
Van Gundy last coached the Orlando Magic in 2011-12. Van Gundy was let go by the organization after five seasons as the team attempted to appease Dwight Howard and prevent him from leaving, which he eventually did anyway.
Van Gundy brings strong leadership and a no-nonsense approach to Detroit. He does not shy away from telling players or the media his opinions and holds players accountable. While Van Gundy is a proven coach, the Pistons are entrusting him with running the organization on an executive level as well, something which he has no prior experience with. However, Van Gundy is confident that he can turn things around in Detroit.
“I’ve had a lot of time in the last two years so I’ve had a lot of thoughts on the organizational part of it, the basketball operations, how I would want to structure it, how I would put the pieces in place,” Van Gundy said earlier this month, while also acknowledging his limitations and admitting he would only be successful by adding great people to help him.
Van Gundy has already begun that process, hiring Brendan Malone, Bob Beyer and Charles Klask as assistant coaches and Adam Glessner as a team scout. Van Gundy said he brought in these coaches because of their past experience and because they understand the system and style of basketball the team wants to implement.
Looking at Van Gundy’s past, it appears that he will implement an offense that spreads the floor and surrounds a post player with knock down shooters. In Orlando, Van Gundy used Howard as the focal point of the offense. When Howard was doubled-teamed, players like J.J. Redick, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Courtney Lee, Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter were ready to swing the ball around the perimeter until someone got a wide open three-pointer. It was an efficient offensive system, often ranking in the top-10 of the league. It also yielded the best production out of Howard, who is finally rounding back into his old form with the Houston Rockets, another team which spreads the floor. Unlike other efficient offensive systems, Orlando’s offense was not about running in transition each opportunity, but moving the ball quickly in search of the best shot available.
Now in Detroit, Van Gundy has a young center in Andre Drummond, who is still very raw, but is the closest thing to a young Howard as there is in the league. Drummond will continue to improve his post-game, and this will provide Van Gundy with a focal point through which to run his spread offense, as he did in Orlando. However, Van Gundy will have to add more shooters in free agency or via trade as the Pistons ranked 26th in three pointers made as a team last year (507), and made only 32.1 percent from beyond the arc (29th in the league). Fortunately, it is harder to come by a talent like Drummond, and even Greg Monroe, than it is perimeter shooters. It probably won’t happen this season, but in the near future, under Van Gundy, the Pistons will likely be a top-10 offensive team with Drummond in the middle, and shooters spreading the court around him. The difference from past years is Van Gundy has a philosophy to build around and can add players that fit his system, which will hopefully avoid signings that make little sense, like Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Josh Smith.
What is often overlooked about Van Gundy is how good of a defensive team he made the Magic each season. In every season under Van Gundy, with the exception of 2011-12, the Magic were a top-10 defensive team, and in 2008-09 they were the number one rated defense in the league. While a lot of the credit for those rankings go to Howard, who won Defensive Player of the Year three years in a row, it was Van Gundy who managed to orchestrate the entire team into a formidable defense. Players like Nelson, Turkoglu, Lewis and Carter were never really lock down players, but they knew how to funnel players to Howard so he could disrupt them on their way to the basket. With more experience and time under Van Gundy, Drummond could one day fill the role Howard once did, perhaps even better than Howard did.
Most importantly, Van Gundy has the type of personality that can grab the attention of his players, and get them to buy in to his system and philosophy. It has been many years of aimless basketball in Detroit, but things are set to turn around behind the strong leadership and philosophy Van Gundy brings with him to the Pistons.
– Jesse Blancarte