It wasn’t a happy ending from which Stan Van Gundy could ride off into the sunset, leaving the Pistons on his own terms, feeling like he had accomplished what he set out to do.
Instead, it was an unceremonious end to a four-year tenure, with only one playoff appearance to show for his time in Detroit, as both the team president and head coach.
Not quite what he had hoped for.
Still, Van Gundy has gotten credit from Pistons owner Tom Gores for helping turn the culture of the franchise around. Gores fired Van Gundy in May, paving the way for new coach Dwane Casey to finish the job, inheriting Van Gundy’s roster and leaving the salary-cap issues that have the Pistons at a relative standstill.
Van Gundy, meanwhile, is in something of a limbo, trying to figure out what to do with all his extra time, sitting on the sidelines and awaiting the next opportunity.
“I’m as lost as I’ve been. Every other time, I’ve known — or had a pretty good idea — that I was still going to try to coach,” Van Gundy told former assistant coach Rex Walters on the “Real Talk Basketball” podcast. “The last time I was out after Orlando, I did some college games on TV and some radio stuff.”
Van Gundy signed a five-year deal worth $35 million to wear both hats for the Pistons, but the sole postseason trip resulted in a four-game sweep to the eventual-champion Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. Injuries to point guard Reggie Jackson and some shaky and uninspired play led to them finishing out of the playoffs and in the draft lottery.
With one year left on his contract, Van Gundy can sit at home and not have to coach, but for a coaching lifer, it’s hard to get away from that.
“If I could get a job (for next season), I had planned to coach. Now, I really don’t know. I’m really lost right now — I don’t have an idea. My wife wants me to retire,” Van Gundy said. “I have people looking into some media things and I’m looking into some teaching opportunities in college, sports management programs and things like that.”
Van Gundy was known for his outspoken nature — about his players, politics or other issues surrounding the NBA — during his Pistons tenure, but with a summer off and the season around the corner, he’s feeling the pull of the coaching routine again, with no coaching job available in the NBA.
“I want to do something, but if I’m not coaching, I don’t want to work too hard,” Van Gundy said. “If I’m going to be grinding, then I want to coach; if I’m not going to be coaching, I want to be semi-retired, at least. I really don’t know (what I’m going to do).”
Van Gundy’s name had not been mentioned after he was fired as a potential candidate for any job openings but it’s unclear if his name could surface midseason if there are any job changes.