Stan Van Gundy and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores will meet next week to decide the fate of the president of basketball operations and head coach in Van Gundy as well as the entire front office and coaching staff, many whose contracts expired at the end of the season.
This comes courtesy of ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Nobody is sure what Gores will do but the pivotal meeting promises to bring some much-needed clarity to the organization. Coming off of a disappointing 39-43 season that saw a lot of upheaval -- both with injury and roster changes, anything is possible. Van Gundy could keep both his front office and head coaching title on the premise that the core of the team — with Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson — is solid and a full season together with good health would propel the team back into the playoffs.
Or ... he could be relieved of his duties altogether and the entire organization could see a massive overhaul everywhere except on the court where the team has little financial flexiblity and most of the rotation players already under contract next season.
There is a third option, however, and conventional wisdom in NBA circles seems to indicate it is the most likely — Van Gundy could lose his front office title and strictly be a head coach. Van Gundy has not exactly bathed himself in glory as an executive. He’s swung excellent trades for undervalued assets but under the biggest spotlight he has struggled.
Van Gundy’s record in the draft is poor with his best player Spencer Dinwiddie -- a guy he let go in favor of veteran backup point guards but who is now blossoming with the Brooklyn Nets. He chose between Devin Booker and Stanley Johnson and went with Johnson. He also debated between Donovan Mitchell and Luke Kennard and chose Kennard. Oops. His other first-round draft pick, Henry Ellenson, has struggled to look like he belongs in an NBA rotation during his first two years.
Van Gundy has also struggled with free agency. He signed players to big money who have either been injured or fell out of the rotation. Boban Marjanovic and Langston Galloway played sparingly despite $7 million price tags and Jon Leuer, signed for $10 million per year, has struggled for 1.5 of his two seasons on the team.
However, there are clear signs of improvement, and Gores has a very strong personal and professional relationship with Van Gundy. Griffin was proving his mettle as a do-it-all point forward after some early struggles but was eventually lost to a minor injury.
Jackson looked like he was having a bounce-back season with his health and explosion returned. Jackson propelled the Pistons to a 19-14 record before badly twisting his ankle and the Pistons could never recover. Lastly, Drummond was having his best season as a pro. The team smartly ditched his post-up game and turned him into a facilitator to excellent results. Drummond also matured on and off the court and even fixed his free-throw game to boot.
Will all that be enough to save Van Gundy’s job? It’s unclear. There are plenty of NBA openings this offseason and some appear to be higher profile than Detroit so even if they have a vacancy they will not likely have their pick of coaches. Competent coaches are salivating at the idea of coaching Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, the Knicks can offer the big city and Kristaps Porzingis, and teams like the Phoenix Suns can offer lower expectations, a young roster and plenty of assets and flexibility.
Whatever happens, we’ll know in about a week.