Pistons' Van Gundy recalls legend Dean Smith
Auburn Hills — Many people will talk about what Dean Smith left for the game of basketball, the way Smith changed and improved the game.
But what impressed Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy was the impact Smith had on people.
Particularly the many players that went through Smith's program at North Carolina.
Smith died late Saturday at the age of 83.
"Certainly a lot of people will talk about his innovations with the huddle and the four corners offense and the way he evaluated his offensive and defensive efficiency, and those types of things have ended up impacting a lot of coaches," Van Gundy said. "But to me, I'll remember as much the things he did off the court, in standing for causes and things before it was popular to do so really set him apart.
"I've known a lot his former players, and the way he involved with them and stayed in touch with all of them, it was above and beyond what most people do.
"I didn't know the man personally. But (learning from other people who knew Smith), how much good he did for people, and cared about people, and used his position and notoriety for good, that's something we can all learn from."
Van Gundy remembers meeting Smith once on the recruiting trail when he was coaching Wisconsin and both were recruiting Sam Okey (who would eventually choose Van Gundy and Wisconsin).
Van Gundy was an assistant at Fordham when Smith's Tar Heels defeated Fordham in overtime.
"Obviously he was one of the greats of the game," Van Gundy said. "It was a real sad story the last few years for him, but he's one of the most revered people in the history of the game and for good reason."
The last two No. 1 overall picks in the NBA Draft, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, are from Canada — and both, coincidentally, are on the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Both came over to Minnesota during the summer in the trade that sent Kevin Love to the Cavaliers.
Wiggins came into Sunday's game averaging 15.3 points while Bennett has struggled, only averaging 5.4 points on 43 percent shooting.
Wiggins, the top pick this past summer, has impressed Van Gundy since the Pistons' first look at him the second game of the season.
"He's much more confident and assertive, and seems real comfortable on the floor," Van Gundy said. "They go to him a lot. We played them the second game of the season and he didn't play bad, but he wasn't nearly as aggressive as he is now."
Van Gundy is impressed with how Canadian basketball has improved over the years, and the drafting of Wiggins and Bennett No. 1 overall is an indication.
"Canadian basketball has improved a great deal, as it has in a lot of places around the world," Van Gundy said. "There are good players everywhere, certainly in Canada. The last two No. 1 picks are both Canadians. Certainly it says something about the quality of players Canada is producing."
Wiggins was impressive in Sunday's 112-101 victory scoring 18 points, with eight rebounds and five assists.
Minnesota was without guard Ricky Rubio (sprained ankle), who re-injured his ankle Friday.
... Andre Drummond record his 29th double-double of the season with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
… The Timberwolves have defeated the Pistons 10 straight times after losing six of the previous seven games between the teams.
... Van Gundy likes the way point guard John Lucas III has learned the Pistons offense.
"He's pretty sharp,' Van Gundy said. "Pretty much everything, we can run."