Jeff Bower and Stan Van Gundy answer questions during Wednesday's press conference at The Palace. (Todd McInturf / Detroit News)
Auburn Hills -- As Stan Van Gundy introduced his right-hand man -- new Pistons general manager Jeff Bower -- it was a culmination of a 25-plus year relationship that began in high school gyms when they worked for small colleges in the Atlantic-10 Conference.
“I’ve always had a tremendous respect for people who worked their way up the ladder,” Van Gundy said. “He’s driving in cars thousands of miles on recruiting trips.”
Sitting side by side on a dais Wednesday, wearing Pistons gear, it was a long road from those days. Van Gundy and Bower are now charged with the task of molding a talented but ill-fitting Pistons roster -- with the unconventional setup of Bower having to ultimately answer to Van Gundy, the team’s president and head coach.
“Neither one of us have thin skin; we’ll be able to handle whatever comes up,” said Bower, who was the coach at Marist College last season and spent his pro days at every branch of the New Orleans Hornets system.
Van Gundy said managing the Pistons’ front office would be the responsibility of Bower, who agreed to a three-year contract in joining the Pistons.
“Jeff will be the primary guy (but) I’ll be involved,” Van Gundy said. “Any general manager has to work closely with the coach, the president, to be successful.”
It’s unique in the way that Van Gundy has the same responsibilities that Bower once had, in New Orleans, when Bower took over for Byron Scott during the 2009-10 season — after Bower was already general manager. Bower will assist Van Gundy in navigating his position as the new Pistons czar.
“One of the parts of this role is to craft how we do things, the reach through the organization,” Bower said. “I’m going to be connecting the dots, communicate the message, communicating the vision that would reflect the Piston way.”