May 17, 2014 at 11:49 pm

Vincent Goodwill

Time will tell if Pistons owner Tom Gores can stay patient with Stan Van Gundy

New Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy
New Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy : Stan Van Gundy is introduced as Detroit's new coach and president of basketball operations.

Auburn Hills — The pomp, circumstance and glory was all in abundance Friday in The Palace of Auburn Hills atrium. New Pistons coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy and team owner Tom Gores sat unified on a dais, all but arm-in-arm, satisfied with the joint venture they’ve embarked on.

The honeymoon is now, of course, and both should relish it. Gores made no bones about saying it’s his “defining moment” as Pistons owner, which it certainly appears to be, to date.

Van Gundy parlayed the natural pause of leaving a team and taking a break from the game to become one of the hottest candidates on the market, one whose price was so high only the Pistons were willing to pay.

Getting absolute power from Gores — a franchise leader but NBA novice who stated how desperately he wanted to win — was certainly a coup in a sense for Van Gundy. Having dual titles only two other men in the game possess — Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Gregg Popovich of the Spurs — qualifies as such

Nobody questions Van Gundy’s credentials or acumen on the sideline as a coach. And there’s no doubt he recognizes the severity of the power he’s been handed. But how will it translate tangibly when there’s internal strife, as there’s bound to be in any organization? Van Gundy definitely has a plan, but will Gores allow him the latitude to execute it?

Risk assessment

Talking to the folks at Platinum Equity, Gores’ equity investment arm, they spoke about how they stealthily pulled off something not many saw coming. In their eyes, a “safe move” such as getting an experienced and ready personnel man like Scott Perry, Troy Weaver or Travis Schlenk would have been just as risky as handing Van Gundy the autonomy he apparently earned in clandestine meetings in Los Angeles, away from plain sight, away from the media.

But it’s easy to be bold when that’s the reputation Gores has earned, at least theoretically, since taking over. Prudence and patience hasn’t been his forte. That’s his prerogative, but will it clash with Van Gundy’s long-term vision?

The new Pistons czar spoke about winning now while also planning for the future. That isn’t the easiest task, especially with where the franchise sits at the moment.

It’s an important crossroads. Greg Monroe is a restricted free agent come July 1. Josh Smith is under contract for three more seasons. And the clock is counting down to when Andre Drummond has to make a decision on his future, assuming he continues to progress at the rate that should net him an All-Star appearance next season.

Van Gundy clashed with Shaquille O’Neal in Miami and Dwight Howard in Orlando. Although there’s usually a clear good guy/bad guy in situations like these, this comes across murkier, with more nuance needed.

If Van Gundy clashes with Drummond, the most important player wearing Pistons blue, will Gores back him the way he didn’t back former coach Maurice Cheeks? If Drummond isn’t ready for Van Gundy’s grating style — one that produces results, it should be added — will there be a direct line of communication from player to owner at the first sign of trouble?

Cheeks’ firing will ultimately serve as a footnote in Pistons history, to be sure. One in a long line of head coaches who were perceived to be doomed from the start and dismissed sooner than 95 percent of coaches in the fire-happy NBA.

Gores’ responded when players complained about Cheeks’ methods, which produced a slow but not disastrous start. The underachieving, whining and not being behind Cheeks from the start led to his surprising ouster, which Gores nearly bragged about as getting ahead of the pack in terms of being the first step in connecting with Van Gundy.

Van Gundy can be a live wire. He can rail against the NBA, say things folks in the majority are afraid to even approach. That’s refreshing, considering it would be easy for him to lay back and allow the status quo to remain so.

But if Van Gundy displays public frustration at something Gores may do privately, how will that fly? If Cheeks had those issues, if he were aware of what went on behind the scenes, he didn’t air those grievances for the world to see.

Van Gundy won’t have that reticence, no matter his role.

Tom's tomorrow

Gores, as a Piston owner, is at the same crossroads as his franchise. He’s confident, brash and unafraid to say this is his stamp as Pistons owner, but can he back off? Can Gores, in the words of late Pistons coach Chuck Daly, “be a little bit blind and a little bit deaf” to what’s going on, especially if he’s in town to observe from his own vantage point?

When Gores makes statements like the “defining moment” one, it certainly indicates losing has affected him in some way. But will his “defining moment” mean he can’t resist from giving too much of his input, input he’s earned by virtue of purchasing the proud franchise?

And if so, how will Van Gundy receive it?

Pistons owner Tom Gores, left, and new team president and coach Stan Van Gundy answer questions during Thursday's news conference to introduce Van Gundy. / Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News