Something had to give, and apparently it was Van Gundy’s job.
The Detroit Pistons announced today that Stan Van Gundy will not return as the team’s President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach. The search process for new basketball leadership, including a new head of Basketball Operations and a new Head Coach, will start immediately.
“We have decided that this change is necessary to take our basketball organization to the next level,” said Pistons owner Tom Gores. “This was a very difficult decision and we did not come to it lightly. I am grateful to Stan for everything he’s done for the Pistons and for the City of Detroit. He rebuilt the culture of our basketball team, re-instilled a winning attitude and work ethic, and took us to the playoffs two years ago. He went all-in from day one to positively impact this franchise and this community.
“But over the past two seasons our team has not progressed, and we decided that a change is necessary to regain our momentum,” Mr. Gores said, emphasizing that Mr. Van Gundy, who has a year remaining on his contract, wanted to return.
“Stan is a competitor and he wanted to finish the job,” Mr. Gores said. “He retooled a roster that we think can be very competitive in the East. I know he’s disappointed, and that he cares deeply about his players, his staff, this organization and this city. He’s also a professional who will make sure this is a seamless transition, and someone I hope will be a friend and adviser to me long after this transition is completed.
“I have nothing but respect and love for Stan. I think he is a great coach and a great man, and his presence and leadership helped move this franchise forward,” Mr. Gores said. “Although we did not get the success both of us wanted, his efforts and leadership have put the franchise in better shape today than when he came on board.”
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Van Gundy joins Doc Rivers (Clippers) and Mike Budenholzer (Hawks) as coaches who recently lost front-office power, but unlike those two, Van Gundy also lost his coaching job at the same time.
After a highly successful tenure with the Magic, Van Gundy waited three years for the right job. Detroit created it by offering dual roles. Van Gundy has made clear through the years he doesn’t fear getting fired. He wants to work on his terms. It’s unsurprising he never gave in to Gores’ preferred revamped structure.
The Pistons are definitely justified to move on. They went 152-176 in his four seasons in Detroit, making the playoffs only once and never winning a single postseason game. To achieve that mediocrity, Van Gundy capped out the team for years to come and traded its 2018 first-round pick.
But it’s less clear whether this is about punishing someone for the Pistons’ struggles or setting them up for future success. Gores’ problem wasn’t the Blake Griffin trade. The owner already declared that a victory, not something he needed to see play out. Gores admitted Detroit’s biggest problem this season was Reggie Jackson missing 37 games due to injury. If Jackson stayed healthy, perhaps Van Gundy would still be in charge.
It seems silly to tie Van Gundy’s job to a point guard’s health. Either Van Gundy was best for the job or he wasn’t.
With Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, the Pistons could easily make the playoffs next season. That might hinge on the upcoming coaching hire.
But reaching a higher upside with this capped-out roster? Van Gundy’s successor in the front office will have his hands full.