Van Gundy says Ewing ready to run own team

Vincent Goodwill Jr.
The Detroit News

Charlotte, N.C. — Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy has never been shy about uplifting his guys, coaches he's worked with in Miami and Orlando, publicly stumping for them to receive head coaching jobs.

It's why he's an unabashed supporter of Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford, who took the Hornets to the playoffs in his first year last season.

It's also why he's dumbfounded that former assistant and Basketball Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing hasn't gotten so much as a sniff for a head coaching job, despite paying his dues as an assistant in various places.

Ewing is an assistant on the Hornets staff, having been there for the last few seasons.

Ewing and Van Gundy worked together in Orlando, where Ewing was credited with working with Dwight Howard — but Van Gundy believes even that has worked against Ewing, who was tagged as just a "big man coach."

"Here's a guy who was in Washington, Houston, Orlando, (Charlotte)," Van Gundy said. "He's put in a lot of time and hard work and has really become a good coach and is ready to run his own team."

Ewing isn't the only Hall of Fame big man who couldn't break through, as NBA all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went through the same struggles after his playing days ended in 1989 — and, unfortunately, if Abdul-Jabbar is the model, there won't be a happy ending for the former New York Knicks great.

"Because he's 7 feet, that works against him? I don't really get that," Van Gundy said. "The only thing I've heard that makes any sense is because he's a really good basketball coach."

Ewing didn't go to the broadcast booth to promote himself, and Van Gundy isn't discrediting the former players who used television to elevate their platforms and to make themselves marketable and visible to teams, like Mark Jackson or Steve Kerr.

"Some of those guys have done a very good job," Van Gundy said. "You can't look at an individual job or organization and sayid that guy should've gotten that job. There's all kinds of ways to find good people. I don't have anything against those guys."

"I think Steve Kerr and (Bucks coach) Jason Kidd are coach of the year guys to me. I just know that Patrick is ready and deserves really strong consideration for anything. I'm sure he's even better now than when I had him. He's three years down the road, working for a great coach. I don't see what the hang-up is."

Focus on point guard

The Hornets' trade announced Tuesday afternoon, when they acquired Mo Williams from the Minnesota Timberwolves, prompted questions about the Pistons' intentions, as they sit two games out of the playoff race and have every desire to move into the top eight.

It's how Van Gundy will spend the six days off the Pistons will have between Thursday and next Wednesday, when practice reconvenes after the All-Star break. They'd like to acquire a backup point guard, and Miami Heat point guard Norris Cole's name has been swirling around for weeks now.

But with Brandon Jennings' status for the start of next training camp such a huge unknown at the time, it complicates matters. They won't want to pay the price for acquiring a backup guard who could wind up being a third point guard next season, conceivably.

"We're getting close to the trade deadline," said Van Gundy, not referring to any position specifically. "Stuff will come up, Jeff (Bower) and I will be talking. We'll talk about things we may want to add or incorporate the last third of the season."

When asked if the Pistons were willing to make a move, he stuck to his usual stance of not wanting to give up a lot in the form of players they like or draft picks — limiting their window a little more.

"Yeah, but we don't want to be making sacrifices down the road," Van Gundy said. "If it's a matter of spending more money, yes, we definitely would. If it's giving up what we think are valuable assets, and it's just for a rental for the rest of the year, probably not."