Udrih putting off coaching plans to further NBA career

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills  — Beno Udrih’s time is coming.

One day, he’ll hang up his playing shoes and pursue his coaching aspirations.

That time just isn’t right now — Udrih, 35, still is holding on to his hoop dreams.

Udrih was with the Pistons in training camp as part veteran presence and part insurance policy in the preseason while Reggie Jackson (knee tendinitis) and Langston Galloway (knee bruise) recovered from injuries and increased their workload.

With silver-dyed hair, Udrih stands out from his teammates, but he is a favorite among them. When coach Stan Van Gundy texted the team Saturday to let them know Udrih had been released, it got a flurry of reaction.

“When I texted them and told them all that we were releasing Beno, I got the sad-face emojis,” Van Gundy said. “Guys understand the business of it; at the same time, he was a guy they really liked. It’s always hard when it’s a guy like that.”

It’s not the end of the line for Udrih, although he has expressed a desire to go into coaching and has taken some of the training the NBA players association offers to help in the transition.

Not quite yet, though.

“I’m not there yet; I know I can still play, especially in a system that people know what I can do,” Udrih told The Detroit News during training camp. “I’m a pick-and-roll player and I’ll make the right play and try to find open shots for my teammates or take the mid-range shot.”

In the days after teams trim their preseason rosters, it’s a meat market of NBA talent. There are plenty of teams out there that could benefit from a savvy veteran to help their young backcourt get acclimated to the NBA grind and act as a mentor.

But Udrih is prepping for the day when the phone won’t ring and he’ll be out of offers to play.

“I still do the coaching program and leadership program through the NBPA but that’s just preparing for the future,” Udrih said. “Each year, you learn more and more. The future is not today. Today is today.

“I still can play and I still want to play. If it doesn’t happen here, maybe somewhere else, and we’ll go from there.”

Udrih had his best season in 2010-11 with the Sacramento Kings, when he averaged 13.7 points, 3.4 and 4.9 assists in 79 games. He’s played for six teams since, but still has something left in the tank, which he showed last season, when he averaged 5.8 points and 3.4 assists in 39 games.

He didn’t have any misgivings about why the Pistons invited him to training camp, so parting was a bit easier, but he continued to work on his game in case another team needs his services.

“I worked on my 3s during the summer as well, so now I can stretch the floor on kick-outs,” he said. “You have to adjust to the game a little bit.”

If the call doesn’t come, Van Gundy still is interested in staying in contact with Udrih, if not for this season, for the future.

“I don’t know what his plan is from there. I may try to touch base with him in a week or two to see where he is,” Van Gundy said. “It’s tough when you release somebody to start talking to him about the next thing.

“We obviously have a lot of people on the coaching staff but I’d like to know where he’s headed and I’d certainly be able to help him in any way I could.”