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Stretching the Field: Pistons take leap of faith in Van Gundy

By Shawn Clarke, Contributing Editor

(SportsNetwork.com) - Former NFL head coach and Hall of Famer Bill Parcells once said if an organization wants you to cook dinner, it should at least let you shop for some of the groceries.

Stan Van Gundy wants to push his shopping cart through the aisles of the NBA supermarket and will get his chance as head coach and president of basketball operations with the Detroit Pistons.

Van Gundy didn't get a fair shake with the Miami Heat after Pat Riley and some notable players basically forced him out of town in 2005-06 and took over behind the bench, leading Miami to its first of three championships. Van Gundy at least put himself back on the NBA map with the Magic, but then had to deal with Dwight Howard's drama toward the end.

Van Gundy was the best coach Howard ever had and the All-Star center hasn't achieved nearly as much as success since the two were together.

Now Van Gundy has a new project: leading the Pistons back to respectability.

The Pistons have missed the postseason the last five years and have failed to post more than 30 wins in each season during the playoff famine. So how does Van Gundy fit into the equation after being on the outside the last few years?

"Stan is a proven winner in our league," Pistons owner Tom Gores said. "He instills his teams with passion, purpose and toughness. He is a great teacher who will help our players grow and develop. Stan is more than just a great coach, he's a great leader. What I'm most excited about is how Stan can help us shape the franchise and instill what it means to be the best. He's also a great communicator. My time with Stan has me convinced that he will bring our players, team and community to a very proud place."

Van Gundy is organized and a great communicator. He has a no-nonsense approach and finds ways to get the best out of his players. But some of them in the past mailed it in after not buying into what Van Gundy was selling. He will now have to find a way to balance both positions with Detroit and not get stretched too thin. Even the most successful coaches have trouble juggling two superior positions.

Van Gundy is taking over a roster that actually has some potential to succeed in a year or two, especially if the Eastern Conference continues to play second fiddle talent-wise to the West. Big men Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Josh Smith, and guards Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Jennings could mesh well together under Van Gundy's fresh philosophy, which he broke down during a lights-out interview in Los Angeles.

It was rumored Drummond, the prized young face of the franchise, wanted head coach Maurice Cheeks out and got his wish. Van Gundy better not tick off Drummond because the near 7-footer is the ticket to his success. Drummond, though, tweeted Wednesday that he is ready for the 2014-15 season to start and added a photo of his new coach.

So we'll see how Detroit's gamble with Van Gundy works out come Christmas.

Van Gundy must learn from his past experiences to make this right and get the Pistons back to basketball decency. The days of the "Bad Boys" and coach Larry Brown have been in the rearview mirror for some time and Van Gundy is ready for a new scene.

"We will work to put a team on the floor that reflects the franchise's rich tradition and embodies the toughness and work ethic of fans in the Detroit area," said Van Gundy, whose .641 winning percentage is the sixth-best among NBA coaches with 500 or more games of experience and becomes the Pistons' sixth head coach since the team reached the 2008 Eastern Conference finals.

The Pistons trust Van Gundy's input, otherwise they wouldn't have coughed up plenty of dough for his services. It's not as if the market was that weak where they couldn't find a coach and/or new team president. Mark Jackson and Steve Kerr were available to draw up Xs and Os. The Pistons could have trolled the college ranks, too.

Van Gundy coached the 2005 and 2010 Eastern Conference All-Star teams, and has a decision to make with John Loyer, who took over for Cheeks on an interim basis and fared no better. Loyer is under contract through next season and could remain as an assistant coach. Van Gundy still has to make some moves in the front office under his new and handsomely paid position. Otis Smith or Stu Jackson have been reportedly in the mix.

The Pistons have the entire summer to adjust under their new toy in Van Gundy and the decisions he will ultimately make. They can only hope the new sheriff in town will restore order of this once-proud franchise and a tired fan base.

05/15 13:42:39 ET

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