Hello Tom Gores, and welcome to NBA relevancy. It took you long enough to get here.
After stumbling around with his Detroit Pistons’ ownership since buying the team in 2011, Gores finally got a clue this offseason and made the type of move a franchise needs to make in order to sustain success. For weeks, all was quiet in Detroit’s search for a new general manager leading to panic, but that was by design, because the Pistons had their eyes on the biggest fish all along; Shaquille O’Neal’s “master of panic.”
That man, of course, is Stan Van Gundy. He’s a man who’s never missed the playoffs in his NBA coaching career. A leader who took both Florida basektball franchises to the Eastern Conference Finals, and managed to get the lower-profile one (Orlando Magic) to the NBA Finals in 2009. His .641 winning percentage is impressive, as are the number of superstar and non-superstar players he’s coached to equal success.
Other than those statistical details, though, Van Gundy has what the Pistons’ organization has long lacked: charisma, confidence and personality. With his mustached visage, turtlenecked appearance and witty banter with the press, Van Gundy is a somebody first, and Detroit basketball has badly needed a somebody more than anyone else, arguably since Larry Brown departed.
Michael Curry was a deer in headlights. John Kuester was a career assistant. Lawrence Frank was in over his head. Maurice Cheeks was the king of all mild-mannered retreads. None of them worked because none of them commanded and demanded respect, nor were any truly capable of being the face of the franchise. Outsiders will wonder about handing Van Gundy the keys to the organization, but what they fail to realize is the Pistons had no identity on the sidelines because they had lost it in the front office first with Joe Dumars. The negative results trickled through everywhere else.
In one fell swoop, that problem was solved. According to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, Van Gundy apparently wowed Pistons management with his detailed plan for the organization. Gores now must remain committed to Van Gundy and allow him space and time to execute that plan. Doing so will more than likely allow Van Gundy to be as successful as he’s proven everywhere else. If Gores allows Van Gundy to, ahem, kick some butt within the team and organization and take names in the process, the move will work wonders.
There’s no reason to think Van Gundy can’t be the man to help the Pistons rediscover success given what he’s managed to do everywhere else. Credit Gores for quietly sticking to his guns and being determined to not just go big for Detroit, but finally go big in the right way.
This wasn’t akin to making Isiah Thomas the entire face of the franchise. Van Gundy is a proven winner who knows what it takes to have success in the NBA. Why not give him the chance to build a team in his own image? Arguably, other than Doc Rivers, Gregg Popovich and perhaps Phil Jackson, who else has earned such a role in the league besides Van Gundy?
The Pistons thought they have done better since 2005 with safer moves, and have managed to get worse. Hopefully, with this bold shakeup ushered in by Gores, the days of success return and franchise stability can make a long-awaited reappearance in Auburn Hills.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax