The Pistons’ season ended three weeks ago — and still, there’s no resolution to the uncertain future of their front office and coaching staff.
Coach Stan Van Gundy has one year remaining on his five-year contract and, although he and team owner Tom Gores are discussing what direction the franchise will go, there still is no smoke emanating from the chimney of the Pistons’ virtual Vatican.
That’s a sign — and it’s not.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Gores is open to having Van Gundy return in both roles as team president and head coach for next season, but Gores wouldn’t want the staffs to come back fully intact.
Wojnarowski, citing league sources, reported Tuesday that Gores “has suggested changes that, so far, Van Gundy is resisting.” The report suggests that change would be dismissing general manager Jeff Bower, whose contract is expiring this summer. Although Van Gundy is accountable for the Pistons’ success as team president, Bower conducts the day-to-day operations, including doing the legwork on many of their trades, such as acquiring Blake Griffin in January.
Gores said near the end of the season that he and Van Gundy would meet to discuss Van Gundy’s future. Those discussions have come over the past two weeks, after the Pistons went 39-43 and missed the playoffs for the second straight season.
Van Gundy declined comment when contacted Tuesday by The Detroit News.
Wojnarowski said that Gores also plans to meet with Bower this week. As Van Gundy has been known to be loyal to his staff, if Gores plans to part with Bower, it could also mean that Van Gundy’s future is tenuous, at best.
Injuries to Reggie Jackson and Griffin derailed the Pistons’ push toward the playoffs, but the appeal of having a big three including those two and Andre Drummond is the light at the end of the tunnel that could justify having Van Gundy return to finish his contract.
The Pistons are in a precarious position with the salary cap, and if the they make significant changes in their front office or coaching staff, it would be a difficult situation for a new team president and his general manager to navigate, along with a roster of big-number contracts — with more than $70 million committed next season to their top three players.
Gores said, though, that he wouldn’t use that small sample size as an indication of what that group could do for their future.
In the second season with Van Gundy and Bower, the Pistons made the playoffs, but were swept by the eventual-champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Jackson suffered injuries the past two seasons, which has made it tough to find consistency during the regular season with their starting lineup.
Van Gundy still is owed $7 million for next season, but Gores also could choose to strip either of the titles and bring in a new face to assist. Van Gundy chose the Pistons over the Golden State Warriors in 2014 but valued the Pistons opportunity because it included final authority over basketball operations.
It’s unclear whether Van Gundy might consider returning with only one of the jobs.