Casey’s dismissal after years of sustained success in Toronto and coming off of a 59-win season is bound to stir excitement in fans of the several listless NBA franchises currently looking for a head coach — including the Detroit Pistons.
But Casey was a good head coach that was part of a great organization. What happens when you take a good head coach and put him into an absolute quagmire of an organization? You get Stan Van Gundy.
Make no mistake, Casey knows his stuff, and he has stellar credentials. Casey, however, was buoyed by working for rock solid organization in Toronto with a strong infrastructure that stretched from road scouts, to the end of the bench to the top of the executive suite.
True, Van Gundy’s failings were truly of his own making. He was the one responsible for hiring a GM and had a say in the infrastructure he built.
Van Gundy famously wanted one of the largest executive staffs in the league, scouts watching tons of tape in NBA in college. He invested in analytics and cap management. But, essentially because he was his own boss, he likely gravitated to people that thought just like him.
Casey didn’t have that in Toronto and he was made all the better for it. Years ago, Toronto was leading the way in advanced analytics and second-by-second breakdowns of where players were on the court. They were attempting to learn shot optimization. Casey mostly scoffed — at least early on.
Eventually, though, nobody could deny the fruitful results of the approach. Eventually, Casey was even convinced to revamp his offense to stress player and ball movement and maximize open 3-point attempts.
Are we really sure Casey would be anxious to immediately go back to that approach if he was hired somewhere else? Or would he slide back into his comfort zone -- a pounding, patient offense and maximizing strong defense.
Again, sounds a little like Stan Van Gundy. Now, Van Gundy is gone, of course, but the front office he built remains. A defacto skeleton crew that is simply making sure the business of an NBA team still gets done.
The Pistons should not hire Casey even if given the opportunity. Detroit was must fine the right GM and allow that person to guide the head coaching search. It’s what Stan Van Gundy had right all these year — the head coach and the front office must be on the same page.
There is a strong likelihood that a new GM and Casey wouldn’t mesh well. It could even get to the point that the premature hiring of a head coach, especially one with as much clout and as strong-willed as Casey, would prevent some GMs from even having an interest in taking over in Detroit.
And the Pistons do not have a head coaching problem — they have an organizational crisis. They need to rebuild their team leadership from the ground up, and everyone needs to be on the same page.
Casey was a good, and eventually maybe even great, head coach in Toronto. There is no reason to think he would have similar success in Detroit. Tom Gores needs to worry about hiring the right person to lead the organization, then he can worry about figuring out who the right person is to pace up and down the sidelines.