By: Will Burchfield
At the end of every preseason, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy hears the same complaints.
This player didn’t get a fair shake. That player was overlooked. How on earth was so-and-so left off the roster?
Most of the second-guessing comes from the team’s fans, who, as Van Gundy pointed out, aren’t the ones watching the team practice.
“Every year it comes back: well that guy didn’t even get a chance. Screw that, he got a chance out here every day,” Van Gundy said.
“We’re in this gym a lot – a lot. The (players) get a lot of opportunity, they really do.”
So when the coach makes his final roster decisions this fall, he laughed and said he isn’t looking for feedback from the fans.
“The thing they need to understand is I’m not really looking for their evaluation, okay? And I have great respect for fans, love ‘em, they’re the most important people in our game. It’s just not their role. Their role is not to evaluate our roster, that’s my role,” Van Gundy said.
Often times, fans can become obsessed with that mysterious bench player who shows flashes of ability in exhibition games. Then, when he’s left off the roster, they’re aghast at the decision. Van Gundy chuckled and rolled his eyes, all too familiar with the scenario, and explained it’s similar to the frenzy surrounding backup quarterbacks.
“The favorite guy in football is the backup QB. Then he steps in, and it’s his backup now that’s the favorite guy, because he’s got unlimited possibility. You haven’t seen him throw the interception yet or turn the ball over, so I get it,” he said.
Van Gundy clarified it’s not just the fans who are prone to feeling like they’ve been shortchanged.
“Players also will think like that some: ‘Oh I didn’t get a chance,’” he said. “What the hell are we doing out here every day? You got a chance, I’m watching you every day.”
Still, not every player gets an equal shot to prove himself. It’s just the nature of the business.
“I’m not lying and saying we’re starting everybody from here,” Van Gundy said, holding his hands level to illustrate his point. “If Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond are awful this first week and awful in the (first preseason) game, they’re still starters because they have a history and a base. You’re not going to change my mind on those guys in a matter of a couple of weeks in camp, you’re just not.”
As for the team’s lesser-ranked players, who aren’t so much battling for starting spots as roster spots, Van Gundy follows a different evaluation process.
“Those guys have to do it out here (in practice),” he said.