Culbreath: Stan Van in DetroitWritten by Matt 'Shaggy' Culbreath | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Gores is not messing around with the Detroit Pistons.
After buying the Pistons in 2011, Gores has never been shy about making big moves. He’s already hired and fired two head coaches, along with sweeping Joe Dumars out the door as team president. And just this week, he’s filled two vacancies with one job: hiring former Miami and Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy to both jobs.
Strong hire by Gores — much like the Cleveland Browns bringing Johnny Manziel into the fold, it brings eyeballs to town. It also brings a proven track record to the sideline, even if he doesn’t have any front office experience. But it’s every coach’s dream to have full roster control, and SVG is the kind of guy who could wield that power responsibly.
He’s got his work cut out for him, though. The Pistons haven’t seen any semblance of success in what seems like ages. We knew it was the end of an era when Chauncey Billups was traded away for Allen Iverson in 2008 (and I don’t think anybody except Dumars thought it would work), but nobody was prepared for the free fall that took place in the Motor City. From the Eastern Conference Finals to the lottery in a two-year span? Four out of the past five years with more than 50 losses? It’s no wonder that a New York Times study of Facebook data shows Toledo’s biggest fanbase doesn’t belong to the Pistons or Cavs, but the friggin’ Heat and Lakers.
There are a lot of people who think this is set-up for failure. Who say that since the coach has to be involved with the nitty gritty of the team, he can’t also see the big picture of building the team. He can’t see the forest because he’s in the forest. It’s a legitimate argument. But Stan Van is a great basketball mind, so I think he could be the guy who could pull it off. Not to mention, it’s not as if he’ll be on an island. Surround him with the right front office assistants, and they could do some of the legwork in Detroit while he’s with the team in Chicago.
The naysayers also look to the recent list of names that have come to Detroit, particularly under Gores’ ownership. Gores’ brought in Lawrence Frank for a couple of years, then replaced him with Maurice Cheeks. Mo lasted 50 games before being shown the door. The argument is that Gores is just flashing another big name in front of the fans, without an eye to whether or not it’ll actually work. But the records speak for themselves, I think. In Frank, you had a man who had some postseason success in his first few years at New Jersey. In Cheeks, you had a coach who never made it past the first round of the postseason, going 5-11 in his three appearances there. Considering the NBA is the type of league you can make the posetseason with a losing record, and that’s not a ringing endorsement.
In Stan Van’s history, the only year he missed the playoffs was the year he left the Miami Heat mid-season. Yeah, his last two years in Orlando weren’t exactly the greatest (both first-round exits), but his final year with the Magic was the only year his team didn’t manage to win more than 40 games. Every year he coached, he finished above .500.
Gores didn’t buy the Pistons for a tax writeoff. He obviously wants the team to succeed. He may be a bit quick on the trigger finger, but he has to be. Fans in the Motor City are becoming more indifferent by the minute. When was the last time you heard someone proudly hollar “DEEEETROIT BASKETBAAAALL”? I had to look it up to see if that guy was still the announcer at the Palace. (For the record, he is.) No, a coach isn’t going to put butts in the seats. But putting a winner like Gundy simultaneously in the front office and the sideline is going to bring the kind of talent that’ll bring the fans in. It’s all on the big man now. Let’s see what he has.
“Shaggy” Matt Culbreath is sports director for 1370 WSPD.
Tags: Allen Iverson, Chauncey Billups, Detroit Pistons, Joe Dumars, Johnny Manziel, Lawrence Frank, Matt Culbreath, Maurice Cheeks, Shag on Sports, Shaggy Culbreath, Shaggy Matt Culbreath, Stan Van Gundy, Tom Gores