Today at the Detroit Free Press, Detroit Bad Boys discusses Stan Van Gundy's temperament and whether he can square wanting to win now as a coach with his need to think long term as president of basketball operations.
While I didn't want to call anybody out in the Free Press, and I didn't want to get into the gory details, essentially the goal is to not pull a Doc Rivers in Los Angeles (signing vets that played well against your team years ago in the playoffs). Or, even worse, get so frustrated at losing that you throw a bunch of money at a top-tier free agent hoping he solves all your problems. We'll call this the Joe Dumars Plan.
Van Gundy's first few moves certainly seemed like those of an impatient, win-now coach. He gave a sizable contract to the unheralded Jodie Meeks on the first day of free agency last year, then gave two-year deals to fringe NBA players Cartier Martin and Aaron Gray. During his inaugural season, he was so frustrated by losing and ineffectiveness the he waived Josh Smith 28 games into the season instead of waiting for an attractive trade opportunity to develop.
All those moves were justifiable, but they weren't virtues of patience.
This off-season, Van Gundy again wanted to strike quickly. To fill the team's gaping hole at small forward, he set his sights on Danny Green and DeMarre Carroll, the two best unrestricted free agent small forwards. When he struck out on both, as Van Gundy admitted to pistons.com, he wanted to throw big money at the next best available free agent because the position was too important to not upgrade.
"The one guy in the room who said, 'I think we should just wait' was Jeff. 'Something better will come along in trade than is out there on the free agent market right now.'"
Jeff is Jeff Bower, the man Van Gundy hired as general manager.
Van Gundy sits higher on the organizational food chain. He's Bower's boss. He easily could have overruled Bower, and nobody would have given it a second thought. Van Gundy, the president, could have done what Van Gundy, the coach, wanted: banked on the certainty of signing a free agent instead of settling for the unknown.
We, of course, know how this story ends. Van Gundy sided with Bower, they waited out the market and the market rewarded their patience with Marcus Morris and company for pennies on the dollar.