With Steve Kerr currently mulling over potential coaching vacancies in Los Angeles and New York, the latest hot coaching name in demand is Stan Van Gundy. Van Gundy has been offered a position with the Detroit Pistons as head coach and president of basketball operations. Van Gundy has also indicated he will interview for the vacant head coaching job with the Golden State Warriors. Van Gundy has delayed another foray into coaching after his departure from his coaching gig with the Orlando Magic at the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season. He previously expressed no interest in vacancies for apparent lottery bound teams.
Given that the Pistons have been in the doldrums for an extended period and the mismatched roster will be a challenge for any coach, enticing a top-flight coach will likely require an offer providing significant compensation or control over personnel matters. Apparently, the Pistons are offering SVG both. He would be in charge of basketball operations and the contract is described as five years and $35 million. The appeal of a Warriors coaching job would be to lead a team already stocked with talent, including All Star guard Stephen Curry and his running mate Klay Thompson. Van Gundy also hails from the Bay Area, which is another factor which could tip the scales in favor of the Golden State job.
Unlike the other “in demand” coaching target Kerr, Stan Van Gundy has already tasted success at the NBA level. His career regular season mark is 579-371 and his major highlight is taking the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009. The Los Angeles Lakers took down the Magic over five games in the finals, but most observers considered the Magic team light on talent for a finals participant. Led by a younger version of Dwight Howard, the team also featured Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson and playoffs starter Rafer Alston. Few coaches have the ability to guide a team to the finals with a substitute point guard leading the attack.
Van Gundy will always be linked to Dwight Howard after his April 2012 press conference in which he acknowledged that Howard sought his firing earlier in the season. SVG has a reputation as a hands on “in your face” kind of coach and Howard apparently grew tired of his style. With the Magic desperately trying to re-sign Howard to a long term contract extension at the time, Van Gundy more or less sealed his fate with the firing admission. Howard’s image in the press began to deteriorate after Van Gundy’s statement and would go into freefall as he waffled on the Magic and then dunked on the Lakers.
The Pistons team Van Gundy will inherit if he takes the job has talent, but the talent is somewhat mismatched. Point Guard Brandon Jennings has a shoot first mentality, which detracts from the potential of twin towers Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Further, Josh Smith is a tweener power forward/small forward with a gunner’s mentality. Van Gundy the GM would need to decide if Van Gundy the coach could win with the current team makeup.
As a former NBA coach with a proven track record, Stan Van Gundy finds himself in demand again. He will apparently decide between a hometown talented team to coach or a challenged Detroit roster that he can reshape himself. Either one could be a great opportunity for the former NBA Finals head coach.
Commentary by William Costolo