(97.1 The Ticket) With the Pistons three games out of the playoffs with 21 games to go, time may be running out on Stan Van Gundy.
If the team doesn’t rally and make the postseason, Van Gundy could be fired as head coach, according to a report from the Sporting News.
Per NBA columnist Mitch Lawrence, “Speculation is that Van Gundy will need to make the playoffs to keep his coaching job.”
Van Gundy is in the fourth year of a five-year, $35 million contract. He also serves as team president, but his days in this role are numbered, according to Lawrence.
“Van Gundy is expected to at least lose his role as team president in Detroit…with Pistons (vice chairman) Arn Tellem waiting in the wings to take over the basketball operations,” Lawrence reports.
Lawrence adds that Tellem, formerly one of the most powerful agents in the NBA, has been Pistons owner Tom Gores’ “right-hand man since 2015.”
It’s worth noting that Gores has expressed constant faith in Van Gundy, most recently in his approval of the Blake Griffin trade. At the time, Van Gundy said Gores had no issue with taking on Griffin’s $170 million contract that runs through the 2021-22 season.
It’s hard to imagine Gores would sign off on that trade, which is very much a five-year investment, and then fire Van Gundy a few months later. Remember, Van Gundy acquired Griffin with the vision of playing him alongside Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, and Jackson has yet to take the floor since the trade.
If Gores intends to give Van Gundy a fair shot at putting the pieces together, the coach’s job feels secure at least through the first half of next season. His role as team president may well be a different story.
Van Gundy was asked last week if he senses pressure from ownership to make the playoffs to protect his job as head coach and avoid major front-office changes this summer.
“There could be. I just don’t think coaches ever worry about that stuff. You’re worried about winning the next game,” Van Gundy told 97.1 The Ticket. “What’s painful in this business, as a coach, is losing. I don’t think it’s job security or any of that. I think fans and media love that story and angle, but I’ve been around this my whole life with my dad coaching and I’ve never known a coach that even had that concern. Your concern is you want to win.
“If ownership decides to make changes, which they have at a couple of places this year, then they make changes. It’s all just part of the business.”
The Pistons begin a three-game road trip Friday night at the Magic. They play nine of their 15 games on the road in March, the month that will likely determine their season — and perhaps Van Gundy’s fate.