Free Press sports writer Vince Ellis and columnist Shawn Windsor share their thoughts after the Detroit Pistons have moved on from Stan Van Gundy.
Vince Ellis and Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press
That escalated quickly.
After mostly radio silence regarding the Detroit Pistons’ head coaching search, the multiple names were leaked Wednesday.
Two names emerged – former coaches to reportedly help the Pistons pick a head coach.
The Free Press confirmed separate media reports that the Pistons would soon interview both TNT NBA analyst Kenny Smith and former Michigan star and Miami Heat assistant Juwan Howard for the coaching opening.
Howard was a member of Michigan’s legendary Fab Five, helping the team reach consecutive Final Fours in 1992 and 1993.
There are two more names to the list, the Free Press learned – San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Ime Udoka and Toronto Raptors assistant coach Nick Nurse.
The franchise is planning to interview former Raptors head coach Dwane Casey.
Another person the Pistons plan to interview: Boston Celtics assistant coach Jay Larrañaga.
And there are others, a source told the Free Press on Wednesday.
And the search for a person to help lead the front office is also ongoing with TV analyst Brent Barry, Brooklyn Nets assistant general manager Trajan Langdon and Atlanta Hawks front office executive Malik Rose likely to interview next week.
The candidates for both positions will arrive in Detroit to meet with the group leading the search – recently hired senior adviser Ed Stefanski, Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem and ownership representative Bob Wentworth.
The group will whittle the list down to finalists, who will later fly to meet with Pistons owner Tom Gores, who fired Stan Van Gundy as team president and head coach just over three weeks ago.
If things go according to plan, clarity should come by the middle of June.
The coaching search
The list of reported coaching candidates is notable for names not included.
It doesn’t appear former Pistons star and Gatorade League coach Jerry Stackhouse nor San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon have garnered the franchise’s interest.
The Free Press spoke with two NBA officials with a team involved in an offseason coaching search to assess Stackhouse and to handicap the coaching landscape the Pistons and Gores are trying to navigate.
“Stackhouse interviews well,” one source said. “He knows his Xs and Os and relates well with young players.”
But his intensity was noted and he isn’t afraid to speak his mind.
“He does rub some people the wrong way,” the source conceded.
Stackhouse gained front office fans as a head coach of the Raptors 905, the Raptors’ G-League franchise. His quick rise has one of the officials bullish on Stackhouse’s future, calling him and former Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer the best two coaches on the market.
“Both driven, hungry to win,” he wrote in a text.
Hammon has been an assistant for four seasons.
Right or wrong, her short stint on the bench hinders her chances of being the first female head coach in NBA history.
With Spurs assistant James Borrego’s taking the head coaching job with the Charlotte Hornets, it will be curious to see if Spurs coach Gregg Popovich promotes her to the front bench where the three top assistants sit. That would boost her candidacy in the future.
Smith is the most intriguing reported name.
He met with the ownership in Los Angeles recently and has a strong relationship with Pistons forward Stanley Johnson.
Smith coached Johnson in AAU. Smith saved a voice mail from the Johnson’s mother before her death shortly after the Pistons forward was drafted in 2015, asking Smith to “take care of my son.”
Could Smith help unlock Johnson’s potential?
Casey is being considered because he’s a proven winner, but the interest appears to be lukewarm at the moment.
The search team will have help with the coaching hire. ESPN.com reported the hiring of former NBA coaches Bernie Bickerstaff and Jim Lynam to consult.
Candidates will be asked to conduct a practice and consultants will report observations.
Front office search
With Stefanski aboard, it appears the Pistons are on a similar timetable with the front office search.
It’s taken three paths.
As the Free Press has reported, they are seeking a young, rising front executive to become the face of the franchise, someone for Stefanski to groom.
They are also investigating front office openings to address player development and the salary cap/analytics.
Barry has impressed during the early interview process.
A former client of Tellem’s, he has come across as an independent thinker.
Former Piston Tayshaun Prince remains in contention for a front office opening.
The process is deliberate and lengthy with seemingly many voices involved in the searches.
Paralysis by analysis, perhaps?
But the ownership is being thorough and trying to create a stable organization for the next decade.
An understandable goal when you realize Van Gundy’s four seasons represents the franchise’s longest stretch of stability at coach and front-office leader since the Bad Boys era.
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