Absolutely. If that’s something that he’s interested in. It has to be an interest both ways, but absolutely. Otis Smith – look, I tell people all the time, I got here and I inherited a team that had won 40 games and was losing Grant Hill, Darko Milicic, and then Tony Battie got hurt. So three guys that were really key to their playoff run the year before I got here – they lost all of those guys and the next year we win 52 games. And the reason is that Otis Smith went out and got Rashard Lewis in the offseason. Just a huge acquisition that really changed the way we played and allowed us to become the team we were. And then in our second year, we got off to an unbelievable start and Jameer Nelson went down and Otis salvaged the season with a great midseason trade for Rafer Alston. This is a guy who had tremendous success in building a team and understanding what it takes. So, of course, anytime I would get a job he’d be a guy that I would want to work with.
Otis, look, he is a laid back guy, and he’s doing things here. He and I have stayed in close touch. We get together, have lunch. We talk and text on a regular basis. Otis has been really good. Otis and his wife, they’ve come to a couple of charity things, two dinners for Seminole State College, with us. That’s one of the best relationships I’ve ever built. I thought he was great as a GM. He is a great, great person and somebody whose friendship I treasure.
This is where I worry about Van Gundy the team president.
No question, Rashard Lewis and Rafer Alston helped the Magic on court. Orlando almost certainly wouldn’t have reached the 2009 NBA Finals without those two.
But acquiring them came at a significant cost. Lewis signed a six-year, $112,753,505 contract that became an absolute albatross. The Magic had to surrender a first-round pick to get Alston, who spent just half a season with Orlando.
Maybe the future costs incurred to get those two were justified by the Magic’s success in 2009. In fact, I’d probably argue they were. But it’s definitely questionable.
As a coach, Van Gundy had to worry only about what happened on the floor once the roster was assembled. That’s different now, and although Lewis and Alston were great assets to a coach, they weren’t necessary such slam dunks for a front-office head.
That’s the sometimes difficult tightrope Van Gundy must learn to walk.
As for Smith, my thoughts haven’t changed. The Pistons can and should do better for their next general manager. Even if Van Gundy is calling the shots, he’ll be focused on coaching, and he needs a better advisor at his side.