The new guy in charge at the Palace is Stan Van Gundy. He is the teams new head coach and President of basketball operations. He is proven in the former, but the latter is a new venture. The model has proven its worth in some situations and failed in others so we're not sure how it will play out here in Detroit. It has worked in San Antonio; to a certain extent, in L.A. with the Clippers; and in Miami under Pat Riley when he coached. It's also worked for guys in the NFL like Bill Belichick and Andy Reid, both with power for personnel decisions. Yet, this system didn't work out very well for Mike Holmgren in Seattle or Rick Pitino in Boston.
Here's something we can agree on though: the constant changing of name plates on the Pistons coaching door had to stop. Too many players went running to management/Joe Dumars when they had an issue. They got too comfortable and the culture became more about making excuses rather than "owning their failures." By hiring Van Gundy in the dual role means that issue is no longer possible, unless the player goes to the owner to complain.
Van Gundy must get his star, Andre Drummond, to buy into a philosophy on what it takes to win and make sure Drummond (and anyone else Van Gundy views as a cornerstone) leads that locker room. It's what coaches like Bill Parcells did with the Giants and Jets and Cowboys. Why do you think he brought Jumbo Elliott and Pepper Johnson with him to various stops? Because they spread the Parcells gospel. The same goes for Mike Babcock with the Red Wings. Not all the players love him. So what. They know what wins and they respect the message Babcock preaches. That important statement is reinforced by his teams best players. Yzerman, Shanahan, Lidstrom, Chelios before and now Zetterberg and Datsyuk. Who do you think leads the Patriots and Broncos? Brady and Manning reinforce the edict from their coaches. Effective coaches hold their players accountable and hold their organization to a certain standard.
We know Van Gundy can coach. He's won 50 or more games five times, taken three teams to the conference finals and one to the NBA title series. We also know (and love) that he's straight forward and honest, almost to a fault. It's not something this team has been subjected to. Good. Maybe that's what it needs. It starts with a "buy-in" and understanding of what it takes to win. Hiring Van Gundy means there's one less excuse in Auburn Hills.
Matt Shepard is the play-by-play voice of University of Michigan basketball, Eastern Michigan University football and the Detroit Lions television network. He can also be found on TV locally on Fox Sports Detroit and nationally on the Big Ten Network for college hockey and baseball.Learn more.