When do we start calling it the Phil Jackson treatment? Word on the Internet, courtesy of NBA.com, is that the Detroit Pistons have just brought Stan Van Gundy out of his temporary retirement, installing him as a combination coach and president in a deal reminiscent of Phil Jackson’s gig with the New York Knicks. It’s worth pointing out that Jackson has denied any desire to coach, and instead will settle quite happily for being the grey eminence behind the Knickerbockers’ throne. Van Gundy, who is reported to receive a $35 million deal over five years, last coached the Orlando Magic in 2012, leading Dwight Howard and company to a 37-29 record in the midst of the abridged season caused by the lockout (thanks, collective NBA owners) and has a career record of 371 wins to only 208 losses.
Van Gundy, who’s brother Jeff is also an analyst and color commentator in addition to being a former coach, is joining a fraternity that counts Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, and Pat Riley among its constituency. Riley, of course, returned to the floor after firing SVG, so you know this new gig is karmic. But what does it mean for the Pistons, who’ve been terrible for almost as long as George W. Bush has been a former President?
Ever since they dismantled one of the teams that briefly interrupted the 2000 Spurs and Lakers championship shopping spree (along with the Boston Celtics and the Shaq and Wade Miami Heat), the Pistons have been bad. Not like the Bad Boys bad, but real, real bad. As in no one is coming to the games except when the good teams play bad. This is a team that used to boast one of the most ferocious crowds in the NBA, according to no less of an authority on hostile road games than LeBron James. It’s clear that Pistons ownership wants to get out of the lottery and back into the playoffs. That’s why they went all in on Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings last season, in Joe Dumars’ last stand at keeping his job. Instead, the Pistons went 29-53, just like last year, and they called in the awesome power of Stan Van Handles.