As of Tuesday, May 8th, 2018, the Detroit Pistons officially announced that they are parting ways with head coach/president of basketball operations, Stan Van Gundy after four years with the team. Van Gundy guided the Pistons to the playoffs his second year at the helm, but many fans, along with owner Tom Gores felt that after not making the playoffs over the last two seasons, it was time for a change. Whether that be largely due to injury or not, Gores made the decision to move on from Van Gundy, and find a new man to lead a team that should be winning games. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that the two jobs of the president of basketball operations and head coach will be separate hires for Detroit. Specifically, the coaching position is one of interest for many in Detroit. Names such as Mike Budenholzer to Bill Lambier have been floated around to be the next head man of the Pistons roster. Here is a look at four coaching candidates to keep an eye on.
First things first, just saying coach Bud sounds too perfect the way it rolls off the tongue. The nickname gives off some kind of gritty blue-collar vibe. All jokes aside though, Mike Budenholzer is the clear cut number one candidate for the job in Detroit, alongside just about every other coaching opening in the league. Budenholzer joined the league at the beginning of the 1994-1995 season as the San Antonio Spurs video coordinator. He held that job for two years before being brought on as an assistant coach under Greg Popovich at the start of the 1996 season. Bud stayed coaching alongside Popovich as they racked up four championships (99,03,05,07) learning everything he could from a legendary coach in Popovich. At the end of the 2013 playoffs, Budenholzer decided it was time to spread his wings and put another one of “Pop’s disciples” onto the coaching scene. Budenholzer joined the Atlanta Hawks, a team in a similar situation as Detroit is regarding their head coach. Atlanta was a team that had produced several years of low playoff seeding or missing the playoffs altogether. Their roster was full of mid “star” talent level big men in Al Horford and Paul Millsap. His first year with the Hawks, Atlanta made it into the playoffs as the eighth seed and was promptly bounced in the first round. Year by year the Hawks showed legitimate improvement with Budenholzer’s leadership. For evidence, look no further than his NBA Coach of the Year award in 2015. He had coached the Hawks to be a perennial top seed in the East along with improving his players as a unit. At one point the Hawks whole starting five made the All-star game. A man with loads of experience and lessons learned from Popovich alone is a very tempting idea, along with the proof of what he did to improve Atlanta and make them the powerhouse that they were. Mike Budenholzer should be consider the top canidate to be the next head coach of the Pistons.
As the season progressed, it started to become clear what teams were going to be looking for a coaching change, and as they did, Jerry Stackhouse became a top candidate for multiple teams. Stackhouse made his name known as a former player, who played in the league from 1995 to 2013. Four of those years he played for Detroit (98-02), he was able to get to the All-star game in two of his years as a Piston (2000,2001). This would add a familiar or feel-good feeling between Stackhouse and Detroit fans. Playing career aside, Stackhouse has built a nice resume at the beginning of his coaching career. He started coaching in 2015 when he joined the Toronto Raptors staff as an assistant coach, in which he helped coach them to second place in the east and reach the Eastern Conference finals. Next season Stackhouse was named the new head coach of the Raptors G-league team, the Raptors 905. He’s been very open about wanting a head coaching job in the NBA and has made it known that he took the G-league job in hopes of propelling himself into a head coaching spot in the NBA. Since coaching the team, the Raptors 905 has been one of the best teams in the league, winning the 2016-2017 D-League championship. On top of a winning team, Stackhouse collected himself the Coach of the Year award in 2017. He’s widely known as a players coach whose great with player development. A great example of Stackhouses’ work is two of his former players becoming key young role players on the Raptors bench this year, Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam.
Though his name is not as well known to Pistons fans or throughout the NBA, the players he’s worked with definitely are. Aside from his current tenure as an assistant coach for the Hornets that started in 2010, Silas has been around the league since 1999 where he started as a scout for the Hornets before bouncing around as a scout and assistant coach for other NBA teams. Two of these teams happen to be two of the best teams in the league, the Golden State Warriors, and the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was with Cleveland as an assistant coach from 2003-2005 before heading to Golden State from 2006-2010. The point is that those years correlate with the start of Steph Curry and LeBron James careers, he worked with and helped both players amply in becoming the players they are today. When asked about Silas, both Curry and James have had nothing but good praises to say about him. Silas also took over as interim coach for about six weeks this year as Charlotte was in-between head coaches. While he didn’t do anything groundbreaking while coaching it was good to see him be able to coach an NBA roster effectively. Like Stackhouse, Silas is widely known as a player first type of coach, which I believe would be the best change of tempo after years of tough coaching from Van Gundy’s tenure in Detroit.
To start with the most recent stop on his resume, Messina has been a top assistant with the San Antonio Spurs. To many, just knowing that’s he’s had a fruitful tenure helping coach the Spurs since joining the team in 2014 while receiving high praise from Popovich, would be enough to give him a look as a head coach. Possibly more promising though is the time Messina spent coaching in the Euroleague. He had quite the successful career started in 1989 and stretching until the 2011-2012 season which he joined the Lakers staff as a consultant. During his time coaching in the Euroleague, he won four Euroleague championships along with two Coach of the Year awards. Messina also grabbed a lot of attention while he filled in and held his own during the three-game stint he coached while Popovich was absent due to the unfortunate passing of his wife during the NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors. Spurs players speak very highly of him, more specifically Manu Ginobili and others have long lobbied for him to get a shot as a head coach.
Whichever direction the Pistons decide to take with their new front office and coaching openings, they need experienced hires. This Pistons roster has talent that can be matured and coached into a top seed in the east with the right man leading them. It is now up to Tom Gores, Arn Tellem, and the rest of Detroit’s executive group to find the right men to complete said job.
Featured Image: Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images