Rod Beard | The Detroit News
Detroit — Stan Van Gundy never has been much for mincing words.
His self-awareness is what made him a fan favorite in his four seasons as the Pistons’ team president and head coach.
The fans weren’t quite fans of his win-loss record of 152-176, and more importantly, no playoff wins. The biggest knock was that Van Gundy went hard for the playoffs, and in doing so, he leveraged the salary cap, which made the impending rebuild tougher to do.
The new regime still in unraveling some of the issues from the Van Gundy era. In his first game back in Detroit as an opposing coach with the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday, Van Gundy reflected on his shortcomings.
“Look, regrets from my end that we didn’t win enough games and didn’t get the job done that we were hired to do,” he said “I realize most of them don’t like me, but I love the fans in Detroit, and wanted to do everything I could for them. There are some feelings of regret that we didn’t get it done, but I love the area, I love the people here, and we had a good four years living here.”
Following two years as a broadcaster, Van Gundy is in his first season with the Pelicans and is off to an 11-14 start with a talented young team. Their nucleus includes Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and Lonzo Ball, and the Pelicans have a solid future in front of them.
The roster that Van Gundy inherited in New Orleans is a little bit ahead of the Pistons’ rebuild, which included three first-round draft picks this year, and after a slow start, could have another top-five pick this year.
Each rebuild is different, and the Pistons have chosen to ease their young players, aside from Killian Hayes, who was an immediate starter, into the fray, which looks to be paying off in the long term for them.
“Well, they’re doing (the rebuild), which I understand. They’re putting a lot of veterans out there. I was actually surprised for a retooling team, when you look at how old they are,” Van Gundy said. “In their normal starting lineup, with (Mason) Plumlee and Blake Griffin and Wayne Ellington — they’re old.
“What they’ve done with that is they’ve put their young guys in a situation where they’re playing with smart, tough, veteran guys, which I think helps the development of the young players — so I think it’s been smart.”
Van Gundy also likes what the Pistons did in free agency, with the Jerami Grant signing, which many experts panned because it looked like they overpaid for their centerpiece. Grant has put together an impressive season, with 23.3 points and 5.5 rebounds and shooting 38% on 3-pointers.
It’s a long way away from Van Gundy’s construction of the roster, which was much more expensive with Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson and the eventual addition of Griffin, the only remaining player from Van Gundy’s tenure.
New general manager Troy Weaver revamped the roster, with only four players returning from last season, following a flurry of trades and offseason signings. Weaver has called it a “restoring,” but if some of the young players continue the start that they’ve begun, it could be a little quicker than anticipated.
Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart have set new career highs in consecutive games, a clear sign that some of the patience from coach Dwane Casey is paying off.
“They were criticized for the Jerami Grant deal and he’s living up to everything that he’s done. I like the draft picks that they’ve made. I think Stewart and Bey have both been really, really good and (Sekou) Doumbouya from a year ago,” Van Gundy said. “They’ve done a good job and they’re mixing their veterans with young guys and they’ve played well. They’ve got a great coach leading them. Dwane’s one of the best in business, so the players will develop under him, just like players in Toronto did.”