Storyline: Stan Van Gundy Hot Seat?

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After four seasons with only one playoff appearance under Van Gundy, it’s apparent that [Pistons owner Tom] Gores is seeking change. “We got to make some changes,” Gores said toward the end of the season. “I’m just not sure what they are and he’s been working the whole season so I need to hear from Stan. I can tell you he’s an extremely dedicated man so I think he’s been good for our franchise. “That I know for sure.” Discussions are very amicable, but those changes have yet to be determined, two sources told the Free Press this week.

Stan Van Gundy's future nearing resolution

An ESPN.com report earlier this week, citing unnamed sources, said Gores wants Van Gundy to return as coach, but wants changes to the front office structure. The report hinted at change centered around general manager Jeff Bower. The report also said Bower would meet with Gores. The Free Press confirmed that meeting took place Thursday in Los Angeles. A source also told the Free Press that Gores and Van Gundy would speak Friday, although a resolution isn’t expected until next week.

Drummond admittedly clashed with Van Gundy in the past, but has matured to the point where he counsels younger players when they catch a taste of Van Gundy’s ire. But he admitted the decision is above his pay grade. “I don’t really control that,” Drummond said following the Pistons’ 119-87 victory over the Chicago Bulls. “I don’t control what happens in the front office or what happens with the coaching staff. Stan has been around the longest of all my coaches so it’s definitely been great to grow with him these last four years. I’m not sure what the summer is going to bring, but we’ll see what happens.”

Just a throw-in when the Pistons acquired Marcus Morris from the Phoenix Suns in July 2015, Bullock has emerged in his fifth season as a viable starting shooting guard. “(Van Gundy) is a great coach,” Bullock said. “He is definitely a motivator and wants to win. He wants the best out of this team and knows he can get the best out of this team. We struggled this year, we missed the playoffs, it was a goal of ours, but we have time to go back into the summer and work on our games and try to come back with a better attitude. Whatever direction the organization takes is the direction that they feel is best for the team. My part is to go out there and play as hard as I can for the organization.”

Bullock’s thoughts on Van Gundy are predictably positive. “(Van Gundy) is a great coach,” Bullock said. “He is definitely a motivator and wants to win. He wants the best out of this team and knows he can get the best out of this team. “We struggled this year, we missed the playoffs, it was a goal of ours, but we have time to go back into the summer and work on our games and try to come back with a better attitude. Whatever direction the organization takes is the direction that they feel is best for the team. My part is to go out there and play as hard as I can for the organization.”

Nate Duncan: What do you make of recent comments by [Pistons owner] Tom Gores’ about Stan Van Gundy [being] a team player, and that they’re evaluating things? Marc Stein: Everyone in the league is sort of looking at Detroit and saying, ‘How broad will the change be’? They’re gonna miss the playoffs, the Blake Griffin gamble, to this point, has not worked. You have to assume that at the least, Stan Van Gundy will lose his front-office power. I think I reported about a month ago that the rumblings are out there that Arn Tellem, the long-time power agent who’s been running the business side with Detroit for the last two or three years, that he would take over the basketball side of things. Those rumblings are even louder now.

Tom Gores has a big decision to make. Apparently, so might Stan Van Gundy. That was the logical conclusion from the owner’s rare public comments at Little Caesars Arena Friday night. If you sift through the ambiguity, Gores is considering a change after the season, as the Pistons meander to the finish. With a polite — and purposeful — non-committal on Van Gundy’s future, Gores might have begun the process of parting ways. With the Pistons likely to miss the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, it’s not a surprise.

Would Gores outright fire Van Gundy? I’m not sure it’ll come to that. When the two meet, my guess is, it’ll be amicable, and might end up being mutual. Gores could remove one of Van Gundy’s dual roles — president of basketball operations — and perhaps give him the last season of his contract solely to coach. At 58, Van Gundy might prefer to walk away than accept a new arrangement. “It’s about what happened this year, what we’re gonna do, our future,” Gores said. “Stan’s a team player. We’re not winning enough, so we have to talk about that.”

Van Gundy did a good job early here, completely remaking a woeful team, with Andre Drummond the only inherited player remaining. But amid curious moves, shifting directions and key injuries, it has stalled. “I think Tom and I are totally on the same page,” Van Gundy said. “Our team’s playing hard, I like the guys we’ve had, some things have happened out of our control. But I’m not looking to make excuses. This business is about winning games, and we haven’t been doing enough of that. … I’ve been through this several times, but never this upfront and direct, and never with this kind of relationship with an owner. I have total respect for Tom. I love the way I’ve been treated here, but I also understand and respect Tom has to do what he thinks is best for the franchise.”

“If I were in my second year as an NBA coach and building my career, had young kids and didn’t have financial security (I might be worried), but none of those things are true,” Van Gundy said. “But none of those things are true and I’ve been very, very fortunate. I don’t need to work another day in my life. “I have all the security I need. This is all about what’s best for the organization. I have no apprehension at all. “If I’m not here next year, I’m not chasing jobs anywhere else. You can look for me on my lake the summer here and my porch in Florida in the winter.”

Van Gundy said Friday that he hasn’t been told anything about his future in either capacity, so he’s continuing with the season to try to get the Pistons back on the right track. Pistons owner Tom Gores supported Van Gundy in both roles in speaking to media members earlier this season, but it’s unclear whether his plans have changed. “Nothing has been said, so I won’t even comment on that,” Van Gundy told The Detroit News Friday. “I don’t have any idea. It’s Tom’s team and he’ll make whatever decisions he wants to make and we’ll go from there. “Nothing has been broached with me, so I’m not even going to comment on it.”

Marc Stein: Before the Blake Griffin trade, the buzziest thing that was coming out of Detroit, and I’ve heard this from multiple rival teams in the last couple of weeks, there seems to be an anticipation that Arn Tellem, who, of course, is one of the most successful agents in this league’s history, and has been running the Pistons business side for two-plus years now, there is a lot of chatter that, don’t be surprised if Arn Tellem ends up running the Pistons basketball operations in the near future.

Not that Van Gundy is likely to be terribly concerned about the down-the-road financial implications of this trade for the Pistons should the Griffin/Drummond tag team fail to flourish. The deal comes with Van Gundy running out of time to deliver some certifiable progress in the fourth season of a lucrative five-year deal to serve as Detroit’s coach and team president. It also comes at a time when rival team executives have been buzzing about the prospect of longtime player agent Arn Tellem, who has been heading up the Pistons’ business side as vice chairman of Palace Sports & Entertainment since June 2015, succeeding Van Gundy as the head of Detroit’s basketball operations.

You’re in your fourth year here and have made the playoffs once. Do you have to balance the franchise’s long-term plan with your own need to win now? Stan Van Gundy: Nah. I’ll be 59 this year. I’ve done this in the NBA for a long time. Financially, I’m set, I don’t need the job to support my family, to live my life. I know people have a hard time believing this, but I don’t feel pressure. Pressure is what a lot of people in our country go through — you may lose your job and how are you gonna support your family? I have been really, really lucky. I’m not gonna be a guy coaching into my 70s, probably not even into my mid-60s. I told my wife when we came here, this was gonna be the last job, however long it ran.

So you truly don’t wonder or worry about job security? Stan Van Gundy: It’s not even an issue for me. Now, I will say I feel a responsibility to all those people up there (pointing to the Pistons offices) who have worked hard and done a good job, and I feel a responsibility to the players and fans. But on a personal level, I don’t worry at all. I think my brother (Jeff Van Gundy) had the best line, which is, ‘Getting fired doesn’t hurt, it’s all the stuff leading up to getting fired that’s painful.’ People talk about, ‘Oh, the heat’s on.’ I’ve had a lot of coaches say, the firing actually takes away the pain. There’s gonna come a day, and at that point, I’d say thanks for the opportunity, wish everybody well, and move on. I like this job and I want to make it better, but if it ended tomorrow, I’d be at peace with that

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