AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy expects the Detroit Pistons’ front office to be on the same page as the coaching staff.
That shouldn’t be too much to ask, considering he’ll be part of both.
“One of the big problems at least in our league right now in a lot of places is there is not a great connection necessarily between front office and coaching,” Van Gundy said. “This setup — nothing to do with power — it allows us to really create a tremendous synergy and a very unified organization.”
Van Gundy was formally introduced by the Pistons on Thursday as their coach and president of basketball operations. Detroit went 29-53 last season, missing the playoffs for a fifth straight year. That was the end of Joe Dumars’ tenure as team president. Coach Maurice Cheeks was fired in February and replaced on an interim basis by John Loyer.
Van Gundy’s coaching is well respected — he went 371-208 in seven-plus seasons with Miami and Orlando — but now he’ll have the added responsibility of handling personnel matters. It’s rare for one person to have that much control in the NBA, but Doc Rivers does both jobs for the Los Angeles Clippers.
“This is the most important decision we have made as an organization,” said Tom Gores, who took over as the team’s owner in 2011. “Not only did we hire a coach and president of basketball, we are resetting the culture of the franchise. I’m so confident that this is going to work.”
The Pistons have changed coaches quite a bit in recent years, but this is by far the biggest organizational shakeup in some time. Dumars had been president for 14 years before stepping down as this season drew to a close.
Van Gundy inherits a roster that has a few talented players but looked dysfunctional on the court for much of last season. Detroit’s Andre Drummond is one of the game’s top young big men — and Van Gundy has experience coaching big men like Shaquille O’Neal in Miami and Dwight Howard in Orlando.
“I think we have two responsibilities to Andre Drummond that will help our team, and that is, number one, to do everything we possibly can to develop him as a player,” Van Gundy said. “And then secondly, we have a responsibility to put a system and personnel around him that allow him to thrive.”
Greg Monroe is a restricted free agent, and both Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva are unrestricted.
“I want to start the process by sitting down with Greg face to face, talking about how he sees himself, how he sees our organization, and giving me a chance to talk to him about my vision for what goes on and how I think we can create a system that will fully maximize his abilities,” Van Gundy said.
Monroe, Drummond and Josh Smith can all be effective around the basket, but last season’s Pistons did not shoot well from the perimeter. And Detroit will lose this year’s first-round draft pick if it’s not in the top eight — part of a previous trade with Charlotte.
But with a five-year deal worth $35 million, it looks like Van Gundy will have time to turn this team around.
“Part of what we hired here is the emotions,” Gores said. “That’s what I want. He cares. He’s got a passion. The reason he’s so prepared is he stays up at night thinking about things.”
The Pistons are desperate to become relevant again in the Motor City, where they’ve been an afterthought lately. Hiring Van Gundy has certainly created a buzz, but now he and Gores are both under pressure to restore the franchise’s luster.
“There’s no excuses now,” Van Gundy said. “What happens a lot of times in this thing is — and I know because I talk to coaches all the time. Coaches say, ‘I’m doing a great job but this guy is not getting me good enough players.‘ And the front office is telling ownership, ‘We put together a great roster and the coach is screwing it up.‘
“There’s none of that anymore. It’s on us to get it done.”