Van Gundy transitions to president's role with optimism
Auburn Hills — Now that the Pistons' season is over, Stan Van Gundy can shift his responsibilities to one hat more than the other. In his dual role of coach and team president, he's been focused on the on-court production and performance throughout the season.
After Wednesday night's win over the Knicks helped them finish the season with a 32-50 record, Van Gundy can put on his president's cap and focus on changes to bolster the roster and get ready for next season. The Pistons missed the playoffs, but Van Gundy already had assessed the season as an executive and gauging the direction for the offseason.
"Clearly, we're disappointed to be sitting here today and not getting ready to play in the playoffs. With that said, a number of good things happened this year," Van Gundy said Thursday at the season-ending news conference at The Palace. "Our team had several chances to let the season go, both after the 5-23 start when we rebounded and played so well.
"We made a trade at the trade deadline that disrupted us for a while. We lost 10 in a row and could have let it go right then but instead we come back and win seven out of 11 there."
Van Gundy frequently alludes to how the season was broken into segments — the horrific start, the period after Josh Smith was waived, the aftermath of the injury to Brandon Jennings, the acquisition of Reggie Jackson and Greg Monroe's 11 games out because of injury.
Throughout the roller-coaster season, the Pistons had their share of adversity but Van Gundy's first year at the helm has helped him to gauge where this team is and some of the moxie they showed during the difficult times has him optimistic about the path ahead.
"Going forward, we feel like we've established a base of good, young players," Van Gundy said. "Over the last two-thirds of the year — which is not a small sample size — we played .500 basketball, which would have put us in the top five in the East over that time period.
"We think things are looking up going forward."
One of the biggest issues facing Van Gundy and general manager Jeff Bower in the offseason is the future of forward Greg Monroe, who will become an unrestricted free agent and has been rumored to be looking elsewhere.
Bower believes having Monroe see Van Gundy's philosophy up close will give him a means of comparison to use when other teams make their pitches in free agency.
"The one thing in Greg's situation that's really important is that there's nothing more informative and more educational than living and seeing and doing on a daily basis. Greg now has an incredible amount more information than he had last July," Bower said. "He knows exactly how Stan is going to be in good days and in bad."
While the Pistons have many needs to address in the draft and free agency, the likely target is a scorer.
"We have a pretty good idea what it would cost us to retain him. I don't think this is going to go down to a negotiation thing. He's got to look at the landscape of what he wants and what he values," Van Gundy said.
"We love Greg but I don't think this is about how many love notes we drop between now and July 1."
The Pistons' record put them in position to most likely have the eighth or ninth pick in the draft.
Options in that range could include Spain's Mario Hezonja, Arizona's Stanley Johnson or Kansas' Kelly Oubre. Van Gundy said he and Bower will take a trip to Europe at the end of the month to scout international prospects.
"The ability to step into a role as a starter with an eight selection is more indicative of the roster that you're stepping into as opposed to the readiness of the player in today's draft," Bower said.