It has been mostly crickets since Tom Gores announced he was relieving Stan Van Gundy of his duties as both a front office executive and head coach. Now, names are starting to trickle out about candidates in which the Pistons are showing some interest.
The news comes courtesy of ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (who else?) and many will be familiar to committed NBA fans:
GM Jeff Bower remains a candidate to ascend to top basketball decision-maker with Pistons too, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 16, 2018
Let’s unpack those names briefly.
First, there is the person with the Detroit connection, and it’s not Chauncey Billups. Shane Battier is a Michigan native who was a star basketball player at Detroit Country Day even winning Mr. Basketball in 1997.
Battier was a longtime NBA player, winning two titles with the Miami Heat. He was well known for his incredible basketball IQ and early embrace of advanced analytics. His playing career ended in 2014 and in 2017 he was re-hired by the Heat, this time as the director of basketball development and analytics. Note that he is not pegged for the top executive post but part of a larger front office group.
Head coaching and front office experience, including the past four years as GM of the Detroit Pistons. Seems like a courtesy interview for a solid employee or a “break glass in case of emergency” option.
VanDeWeghe currently works for the league as executive vice president of basketball operations. He had a decent run building up the Denver Nuggets in the early 2000s, but also had plenty of misses. He drafted the Darko before Darko in Nikoloz Tskitishvili in 2002. Oops. He also briefly served in the front office of the Brooklyn Nets.
A longtime executive with the Houston Rockets and widely considered to be Darryl Morey’s right-hand man. Rosas has been flirting with a executive leadership position with other clubs for years, even taking the GM job in Dallas for a few months in 2013-14 before deciding to go back to the Rockets. Rosas started as a personnel scout, then moved to video coordinator, director of scouting, director of player personnel, VP of player personnel and finally executive VP of Basketball Operations. He’s definitely paid his dues. Most recently he was reportedly a finalist for the GM job in Charlotte that eventually went to Mitch Kupchak.
Sefanski has bounced around the league but hasn’t really landed anywhere whose personnel decisions make you stand up and take notice — and that is being charitable. He worked for the Nets from 1999-2007, rising to the level of GM for the last few years. then he movd on to serve as GM of the Sixers from 2007-11. He then went over to Toronto for two years as VP of basketball operations and then spent the past four years as executive VP of player personnel for Memphis. The best thing he might have done was trick, er, convince, aforementioned candidate VanDeWeghe to give up three first-round picks for Kenyon Martin. Hard pass.
Langdon is the hottest young name among the potential GM set. Just over a year ago the excellent ESPN writer Kevin Arnovitz wrote about front-office prospects, so I will outsource analysis to him.
When execs muse about the intangibles that make an effective general manager, they frequently cite range of experience as a helpful ingredient. In this event, Langdon has nearly every base covered. He played at college basketball’s royal academy in Duke, then in the NBA before venturing overseas, including a long stint with CSKA Moscow under Ettore Messina (and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov). Upon retirement, he joined the Spurs as a scout before serving in Cleveland’s front office.
Marks made Langdon his first hire, which speaks volumes about his potential as an executive and his eye for talent. Former players bring a specialized set of skills and experiences to the executive suites, where the job isn’t only talent evaluation but talent management. Be it college divas, journeymen or international products, Langdon has shared locker rooms with them all.
League insiders say Langdon needs a few seasons in Brooklyn during what promises to be a painstaking rebuild, but will eventually receive some serious looks from owners intrigued by a managerial prospect with a playing career and some Spurs shine.
I will note, however, that Marks comes from the Spurs coaching/executive tree and his tenure leading a painful rebuild process in Brooklyn seems like it is off to a pretty excellent start (we miss you, Spencer Dinwiddie).
I enjoy Barry’s commentary and he seems super intelligent, engaging and insightful. I hope he gets rescued from having to be the adult in the room during Players Only broadcasts. Not sure the Pistons are the best fit, however. It should be noted, though, that like Battier, Barry is a candidate to join the front office at a lower capacity than president of basketball ops or general manager.
Of these candidates, I must say that Langdon and Rosas excite me, Battier is intriguing and you can cast the rest aside. However, it’s good to remember that if we can say anything positive about the Detroit Pistons’ front office it is that they do not leak information. Every major and minor personnel move came out of nowhere. Therefore, it seems like these names aren’t exactly coming directly from the highest echelons of Detroit’s ownership group.
So where would these names come from? They could very well be part of a comprehensive search by Gores and company but if I’m the agent for a tertiary of a fringe candidate, I would want to get his name out there to boost his profile and prospects as a real GM possibility in the future. If I’m somebody in the upper echelon (David Griffin, Mike Zarren, Troy Weaver, Sam Hinkie — though there is no evidence ANY of those guys are part of Detroit’s deliberation), I wouldn’t feel like there was any need to float my name out there. Just saying.