By Dan Leach
The Pistons have had six coaches in the last nine years since Larry Brown led Detroit to their last championship in 2004. If you want to go back to the Chuck Daly era, they have had 13 in the last 22 years. In that same time frame, Gregg Popovich has been the head coach in San Antonio for the last 18 years. Jerry Sloan coached the Jazz for 23 years. Consistency at the top is a key component to winning in today’s NBA and the Pistons have been completely opposite of that coaching-wise for over two decades.
That’s why the hiring of Stan Van Gundy is one of the best things the Pistons have done in recent memory. Van Gundy might not have the last name Jackson, Riley or Auerbach, but for coaches that were out there and available for Detroit — there isn’t a better option in my mind to build the young team they have centered around budding superstar Andre Drummond. Yes, Lionel Hollins and Mark Jackson seemed attractive, but Holllins has had much less success than Van Gundy. Jackson has even less.
Van Gundy has coached seven full seasons in the NBA and in each of those he went to the playoffs-the semi’s twice, the conference finals twice, and most impressively led the Magic to the NBA Finals with a team that probably shouldn’t have been there in 2009. He also has the sixth highest winning percentage in NBA history and did it with a decent Heat team way before the King James took his talents to South Beach and a Magic team that had Dwight Howard and not much else at times.
The Pistons need someone who has been there and done that and Van Gundy is definitely that guy. Detroit needed a man who will get the most out of his players and look no further to that Magic NBA Finals team that I spoke of.
That team consisted of Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Courtney Lee, Anthony Johnson, Jameer Nelson and a largely ineffective J.J Reddick early in his career. Success with that roster is one of the best examples in recent NBA history of getting the most out of your players.
Van Gundy has a great base, but there will definitely need to be more moves made, especially regarding if Smith and Monroe can coexist. With a couple of good moves and draft picks, this Pistons team can go from the outside looking in to a top four Eastern team right away with the way SVG can coach. Van Gundy is unproven as a GM but he has a great basketball mind and will want players in Motown that embody him. Hard working, passionate and committed to winning at all costs.
It might not happen next season, but with SVG at the helm the Pistons future hasn’t looked this bright in since the Larry Brown era. You could even make a case that they might have the best long-term solution as coach in place since Chuck Daly. Van Gundy will accept nothing but success for a franchise that has been starved of it for too long now. With a player like Andre Drummond and the ability to build around him, expect the NBA to take notice that Detroit is no longer a wasteland.
No matter what transpires with SVG as coach — it is going to be the opposite of dull around the Palace for years to come.