The Detroit Pistons have been the laughing stock of the NBA for some years now. The records were bad enough, but the coaching carousel that went on was worse. Since 2000, the Pistons have had 10 different coaches. Three of those coaches were during seven straight seasons of 50 or more wins. There is a chance that ends with Stan Van Gundy.
Well, Van Gundy did not have a great season last year. Mind you, there may be some valid reasons. He had not coached in a few years. There was that Josh Smith guy on the team. Brandon Jennings suffered a season-ending injury during a fantastic run. Greg Monroe's contract situation and "fit issues" with Andre Drummond. Regardless, he had the worst coaching season of his career.
But that doesn't exactly matter. He does not have to worry about getting fired by the general manager because he hired the general manager. He signed on as coach and president of basketball operations for five years. But let us imagine that he lasts as the Pistons coach for the full term of his contract. What does that provide the Pistons?
Over the last 10 NBA seasons, the Sacramento Kings have gone through eight coaching changes. That is the most in the league. I use the term coaching changes because some teams have had a coach come back. The Pistons, tied with the Brooklyn Nets, are in second with six changes. There are four teams with five, six teams with four, five teams with three, nine teams with two, two teams with one, and then of course the San Antonio Spurs. So the Pistons have gone through their share of coaches.
If Van Gundy were to stay through his full contract, he would be the Pistons longest tenured coach since Chuck Daly. No other coach since has lasted more than three seasons for the Pistons. What kind of effect does that have on the players?
Numbers say not much. Jordan Bachynski and Eric Griffin are a long shot to make the team, so we don't have to worry about their numbers. Van Gundy would be the first coach for rookies Stanley Johnson and Darrun Hilliard. Spencer Dinwiddie has been lucky enough to have only one coach in two seasons. (This upcoming season is included in these counts.) But what of everyone else?
Reggie Jackson, Joel Anthony and Aron Baynes may be considered lucky. They have had two coaches in five years, four coaches in 10 years, and two coaches in four years, respectively. The other players have not been able to settle in on a coach.
Steve Blake, a journeyman, will have had 13 different coaches in 13 seasons. This count does not include leaving a team (Portland) and coming back to them when they have the same coach. He's not the only one to have the same number of different coaches in number of seasons played. Andre Drummond (4), Brandon Jennings (7), Cartier Martin (8), and Jodie Meeks (7). Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will have had two coaches in three years, Ersan Ilyasova seven coaches in eight years, Marcus Morris four coaches in five years, Anthony Tolliver ten coaches in eight years, and Adonis Thomas with three coaches in less than one aggregate year.
Players seem to have to adapt to coaching changes quite often. This is for a multitude of reasons. Players get traded. They leave via free agency. The team makes a coaching change. So for most people on the Pistons team, this will not matter. But for the Pistons core that they are trying to build, it does.
Jackson just signed a five-year contract this summer and Drummond will sign a five- or six-year contract either this summer or next. Next year KCP will be up for an extension. Johnson is on his rookie contract. But they have a chance to have the same coach for more than three seasons. They have a chance to learn a system that is not likely to change too often except for adapting to different teams and situations (i.e., playoffs). They finally have an opportunity of stability.
By having this stability, the Pistons should be able to build into something. A possible four future starters for the Pistons will be able to cement their offensive and defensive schemes and better teach new comers the ins and outs of the playbook. That is not something they can do when every few years (or every year) they have to learn a new playbook.
How do you feel about the coaching stability Van Gundy provides? Do you think it matters, or do the players (who and what they can do) matter more? Let us know your thoughts.