Beard: Time is on Pistons' side in coaching, front office searches

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Hiring a new head coach isn’t an easy exercise. Hiring a new head of the front office isn’t a simple undertaking, either. Doing both at the same time both complicates the process and extends the timeline to get it done.

That the Pistons have gone almost a month without hiring a replacement for Stan Van Gundy — who wore both hats as the head coach and team president — is somewhat surprising, but also understandable.

Former Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey appears to be a leading candidate to fill the Pistons' vacancy at head coach.

They’re looking to get this right.

Last week, Gores hired Ed Stefanski as a senior adviser to oversee the hiring process for both openings. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday that the Pistons will add former coaches Bernie Bickerstaff and Jim Lynam as consultants to help in the coaching search.

Pistons owner Tom Gores went against the grain in giving Van Gundy control of the front office and the coaching staff. Seeing that that didn’t work, Gores is going in the opposite direction, looking to fill the executive ranks with young minds who have a different approach.

Van Gundy’s style didn’t mesh with players and he didn’t develop his young players effectively. Now, they’re looking at a fresh group of faces both in the front office and in the coaching ranks to add some exuberance and expertise to a roster they feel is ready to contend for the playoffs again. Some of the names are starting to trickle out: Miami Heat assistant Juwan Howard and TNT broadcaster Kenny Smith are among the names as coaching candidates.

It seems puzzling: Why not just hire former Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey, who reportedly met with the Pistons on Thursday, and get this thing over with? Casey is the hottest name on the market, and after Mike Budenholzer opted to join the Milwaukee Bucks, Casey appeared to be the obvious choice.

The answer is simple: there’s no reason to rush. The Raptors are the only other team looking for a head coach, and there’s no chance that Casey is going back to Toronto. If Casey, 61, is the Pistons’ choice, they can take an opportunity to look at some younger candidates and conduct interviews, to see what else is available.

There’s little harm in that, except for a looming timeline with the NBA draft on June 21 and free agency beginning on July 1. The Pistons don’t have a first-round pick — only the 42nd overall pick, in the second round — and with their salary-cap situation, they aren’t likely to be very active in trying to get an impact free agent.

They may end up selecting Casey as their coach, or they could go in a different direction by giving a promising assistant coach a good first chance. Smith has been in the broadcast booth, but doesn’t have coaching experience like some of the other candidates. What he does have is a relationship with forward Stanley Johnson, which can be a vital asset. How Smith relates to the other players, along with his actual coaching acumen, could be the make-or-break criteria for him.

Shaping the front office

While Stefanski has significant experience in the front office, with the Sixers, Nets, Raptors and Grizzlies, his long-term role with the Pistons is unclear. He’s helping in hiring the new regime, and could take on a significant position when all the dust settles. His connections could prove valuable in whatever role he takes, but he’ll look to put a different spin on the Pistons’ front office.

One of the main targets, Shane Battier, chose to stay in his role with the Miami Heat and the name to watch still seems to be Nets assistant general manager Trajan Langdon. The Pistons still could find roles for Brent Barry and former Piston Tayshaun Prince as executives, and there could be news of some of those spots being filled in the next week or so.

Around the league, there aren’t other teams looking to fill spots in the front office, so again, the Pistons essentially are bidding against themselves in trying to acquire talent there. General manager Jeff Bower still is on the job until his contract expires on June 30, and it’s unclear whether he might stay on in the next regime.

There are still many moving pieces and interviews to be done to whittle down the pool of candidates, but the Pistons aren’t moving quickly for the sake of making moves.

Time is on their side — at least for now.