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Van Gundy: LCA adds to ‘best sports city in America’

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Stan Van Gundy’s been through the moves before.

During his time with the Miami Heat, they moved to a new arena. Same for his tenure with the Orlando Magic.

And, this fall, the Pistons — of which Van Gundy is the head coach and team president — will head south from The Palace to brand-new Little Caesars Arena.

Still, this has a different vibe for the basketball lifer whose career has taken him all over the country.

“I just had my parents in town, so we came to a Tigers game,” Van Gundy said last week. “During the drive down, I showed them the arenas, Comerica, Ford Field, Fox Theatre, the Fillmore. I mean, it’s all in easy walking distance. That district down there is just gonna be phenomenal, I think, as an entertainment place.

“It’s gonna be fun.”

Between the Tigers (81), Pistons (41), Red Wings (41) and Lions (eight), the city center will see around 170 games a year, not including exhibition games or postseason games.

And that doesn’t include what’s expected to be a heavy schedule of concerts at LCA, added to shows that already take place at Comerica Park, Ford Field, the Fox and the Fillmore.

There aren’t going to be many dead days downtown, Van Gundy said.

“You’re basically gonna have one of the four teams at home half the nights of the year or more, and there’s really not many places in the country that have that,” he said. “Philly’s got all their teams together, but they’re out of the city. I haven’t gone through every city, but I don’t think anyone else has the setup together that we’re gonna have here in Detroit, and I think it’s great.

“Because I think this is the best sports city in America. Now with everything there, that’s gonna come to the forefront, people are gonna see it for what it is.”

Van Gundy, 57, said he’s long thought Detroit was America’s best sports city, even before taking the Pistons job.

With the Heat, and with the Magic, he played the Pistons in the postseason, and got to see up close the enthusiasm of the fan base.

Then, when he moved here, he got to see the fans up close and has been even more impressed.

“They’ve always been great,” Van Gundy said. “And the thing you find out once you’re here is not only are they intense, passionate fans, but really, really knowledgeable. I’ve known that about basketball, but then when I got here, I bought season tickets to the other three teams.

“Then you’re around the other sports, and you say, ‘Wow, this place is incredible as a sports town.’ I don’t get to many Red Wings games, I’ve only been to one because they’re in season, but I get to a lot of Tigers games, I get to Lions games, and the fans here are incredible.

“And to have now the set-up that we have is befitting of what we are as a sports town.”

Van Gundy last visited Little Caesars Arena the first week of May, and plans to get another walk-through soon.

When he was there, the revisions to make the arena basketball-ready were just in the early stages, since it wasn’t until November that the Pistons announced their intentions to move downtown.