The Detroit Pistons set their sights on Stan Van Gundy and were willing to do whatever it took to sway him. They offered him their vacant head coaching gig, the title of president of basketball operations to oversee front office decisions, and a deal worth $35 million over the next five years. Van Gundy couldn’t resist, officially signing the deal on Wednesday morning per a team announcement.
Van Gundy last coached during the 2011-12 NBA season with the Orlando Magic where he was unceremoniously shown the door essentially at the whim of Dwight Howard after five seasons with the team and five playoff appearances. SVG also spent two and a half seasons with the Miami Heat from 2003-06 prior to taking the Orlando job in 2007.
Though he hasn’t had a job since leaving the Magic, Van Gundy is still widely regarded as one of the best coaches in the league. Sure, guys like Howard have butted heads with his brand of coaching that entails a good deal of hoarse yelling, but he’s produced results again and again, going 371-208 over his seven and a half seasons in the league and never registering a season with a record below .500.
However, as he enters the situation in Detroit, it’s going to be an uphill battle from the get-go. While you have to be excited about what SVG could possibly accomplish with a big man that features the premier talents of Andre Drummond, either Van Gundy is going to have to overhaul some of this Pistons roster or he is going to have to find a vastly different way to play than he did with Howard in Orlando.
One of the staples of Van Gundy’s coaching with the Magic was his offense that featured prolific three-point shooting on the perimeter with a dominant big man in Howard bruising in the post. While the Pistons aren’t short on big bodies to dominate in the post—even with the uncertain future of Greg Monroe—they don’t exactly have all of the personnel to serve as a lethal perimeter offense.
In the disappointing 2013-14 regular season for the Pistons, they were one of the worst teams overall in terms of their three-point shooting. They ranked next-to-last in the league in three-point efficiency as they shot just 32.1 percent from long-range. Moreover, they were the fourth-worst team in the league in terms of makes per game, knocking down just 6.2 attempts from long-range per game.
Though it’s somewhat of a punchline at this point, another factor to seriously consider is how unwise it would be to put forward Josh Smith in an offense that applauds taking high-volume three-point attempts. Smith has a plethora of talent, but his decision-making and shot-selection have all but derailed his career at this point and putting him in that type of offense may only make the bleeding more profuse.
It’s possible that Van Gundy could come in with a new offense to fit this team or could come in and surprise everyone by making his storied offense work with the roster as is. However, the more likely option given the inclusion of making basketball decisions in his deal with Detroit is that we are about to see an overhaul of the Pistons roster to a certain degree.
The biggest issue that SVG is going to face in changing this roster is that he has some big contracts to try and get off of the books if he wants to completely change the complexion of this team. However, if he’s wise and can deal the way that guys like Masai Ujiri and many others have before him, it’s certainly not impossible. What’s clear, though, is that Van Gundy has some serious work ahead of him now that he’s the head honcho for the Pistons.